The fight to raise the minimum wage in San Diego

A lot has been said about raising the minimum wage in San Diego, but little has been said about who the low wage earners are.

Much of the discussion about low wage earners has been in broad strokes, and leaves the impression that all low wage earners are in the same boat.

They are not, and many are in their first job.

“For a lot of folks and for those specifically in the city of San Diego, when they are in entry level positions or low wage positions, they are in a transitory period of their lives. They’re young and we found a majority of whom are 30-years or younger. They are single and a significant number are actually students,” says Vince Vasquez, a National University Researcher.

Those who graduate will see their incomes rise. You may be surprised to learn that 30% of low wage earners are in households with income above $70,000.

“That’s higher than the citywide or countywide household income level. There’s even 40-thousand in households that make 100-thousand or more,” says Vasquez. 

Still, there’s a significant number of low wage earners in low income households, and the age factor is important because the young are gaining work skills.

“It’s not a large number of older workers who have limited skills, who have no other options, who would probably be in a prime position for any wage increase of any kind,” says Vasquez. 

It’s the low wage earners who have little education who will be impacted most by raising the minimum wage. That is about 200,000 Latinos and Caucasians, evenly split.

“When you raise the minimum wage in any situation those who are affected the most, those who are more likely to lose their jobs are those with less education,” says Vasquez. 

This a continuing battle between business and labor but with a twist. This is also about the employer versus the employee.

“If they can’t pencil out the cost in terms of what they pay their employees, they typically will move, close or drastically change the kind of business that they do have,” says Vasquez. 

Some businesses can absorb the wage increase, but others may not be able too.

“Many of the businesses that are most impacted by this are retail businesses, restaurants, and the hospitality industry,” says Vasquez. 

If the minimum wage increase goes on the ballot in 2016, we should have an idea of the impact because two of the three wage increases will already be in effect.

Categories: KUSI