Fresh push for a higher minimum wage

For all the progress we’ve made in the last half-century, today’s minimum wage buys less than it did back in 1956.

This embarrassing fact drove California workers to join forces with labor advocates in support of legislation by U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), who is seeking to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.80 per hour over the next three years.

California’s minimum wage — currently at $8 per hour — is higher than the federal standard but still makes it impossible for entry-level earners to live comfortably in such an expensive state.

In California, the annual paycheck for a person who works 40 hours a week for minimum wage is less than $17,000.

Poverty levels have been steadily rising in America since 2000 and California is no exception. In 2010, about 20 percent of Californians were considered impoverished and without health insurance.

Some argue that many small businesses will be put in financial jeopardy if a wage increase becomes mandatory. However, findings from employee rights advocates like the National Employment Law Project show most low-wage employees work for large companies in strong financial positions like Apple or McDonalds.

Low wages are also being tackled at a city level. In November, San Jose voters will consider a ballot initiative raising their minimum wage to $10 an hour, which will be adjusted for inflation in the future. San Francisco’s minimum wage would still be the highest in the state at $10.24 an hour.

Federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2007, when it was bumped from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.