April 5 2016

FFF_30x46What a great day for California. Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown made history by making California the first state in the nation to raise our minimum wage to $15.

A few years ago, most Sacramento insiders thought this day would never come. So what happened over the past couple of years?

People all over our state marched. Knocked on doors. Organized rallies. Worked with small businesses. Called their neighbors and friends.  They stood up for what was right and fair. Even when people told them they’d never win.

People like Jeffrey Kelly, a shift manager at Burger King, helped organize marches and rallies in his hometown of Sacramento.  Kelly has an infant daughter, Simone. Kelly works hard to stretch his minimum wage to cover rent and food for his daughter. Some days he has little to eat. “Seeing my baby makes me want to work harder and stand up for what is right,” he said.

People like Oscar Velez, a senior at McClatchy High School in Sacramento, found time to attend city council meetings at city hall and organize other young people. Velez helps support his family by working 25-30 hours a week at Taco Bell, while maintaining a 3.9 GPA.

Deservedly so, much of the attention has been paid to Governor Brown and the legislative leaders who led the way for this tremendous victory. Equally important were the steadfast and courageous Building Healthy Community partners that championed #RaisetheWage and created the groundswell to make this historic day possible. On a statewide level, PICO, ACCE, Partnership for Working Families, the UC Labor Center and National Economic Law Program provided the infrastructure for a thoughtful discussion about raising the wage. In Oakland, the efforts were spearheaded by the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), Causa Justa (Just Cause) and Oakland Rising. In Long Beach, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) worked with local groups to move the needle. In Sacramento, SacramentoACT, Organize Sacramento, Sacramento Central Labor Council and others formed a powerful Raise the Wage Coalition. In San Diego, the Center on Policy Initiatives and Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice mobilized locally. The Los Angeles Raise the Wage Coalition and all their tremendous allies helped LA become the largest city in the country to adopt a minimum wage increase. There are too many regions and organizations to name and I’m sure we’re leaving some out.

Raise the wage
Sacramento Fast Food Workers at a rally earlier in the year.

Some people ask us why a health foundation supports efforts to increase the minimum wage. It’s simple. When you raise the minimum wage, you raise people’s health. When people get out of poverty, they can live up to five years longer. People like Oscar Velez can help his family put healthier food on the table. Parents like Jeffrey Kelly will be less likely to suffer from chronic stress by constantly worrying about how they’ll make ends meet.  Because of the work of so many people to raise the minimum wage, thousands of Californians will live longer, healthier lives.

Long live California!

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