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Campaign To “Fight For $15!” in Sonoma County


Campaign To “Fight For $15!” in Sonoma County

By Thomas Martin

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. By living wages I mean more than a bare subsistence level – I mean the wages of a decent living.”  - Franklin D. Roosevelt, June 16, 1933

The prized PBS series on the Roosevelt families last month showed images from the Great Depression that seem foreign and unfamiliar to most Americans under the age of 65. The lines of unemployed walking four abreast as far as the eye can see to soup kitchens must seem today like scenes from another country.  

Well, they are not! If Sonomans visit the parking lot behind FISH off Highway 12 from 9-3 (M-F), or be at La Luz when Catholic Welfare delivers food, they will see scenes mindful of the Great Depression. There are lines of women, children, and men waiting for a food distribution that keeps them whole for a few days more. In “Portrait of Sonoma County,” commissioned by the Board of Supervisors, the census tract Fetters Springs/Agua Caliente West has a median income of $19,444. Sonoma County’s median income is $30,214. Median means half the population is above and half below the figure. Many Springs residents in that census tract live in a state of abject poverty. 

This is why the Northbay Jobs With Justice and the Living Wage Coalition will ask the Board of Supervisors to adopt a living wage of $15 per hour. The proposal does not apply to everyone in the County. 

If adopted, the ordinance will apply to contractors doing business with the County. It would apply to businesses that receive County subsidies as well as County employees. It is anticipated that the multiplier effect of this program will benefit employers, businesses, and residents countywide. 

A recent County commissioned report, “Portrait of Sonoma County,” recommended in its findings, “Ensure that all jobs, including those that do not require a college degree, pay wages that afford workers the dignity of self-sufficiency and the peace of mind of economic security.”  The County’s own report is an admonition to give strong consideration to the goals and proposals of the Living Wage Coalition. 


Living Wage has HISTORY!

At a September 8 news conference former Mayor Sara Gurney of Sebastopol, Councilperson Ken Brown of Sonoma, and Mayor David Glass of Petaluma told how adopting a minimum wage in their towns succeeded. They praised the program of raising the minimum wage without negative effects on city budgets.

Recently the cities of Seattle, Richmond, Berkeley, Sunnyvale, and San Diego adopted minimum wage ordinances applicable to all wage earners. The City of Los Angeles will soon vote on a similar law. San Francisco and  Eureka have ballot measures on the November ballot to raise the minimum wage. San Jose adopted a living wage in 2014 of $15.78 per hour with benefits and $17.03 per hour without benefits. The County of Santa Clara will shortly consider a $17 per hour living wage. 


Watch for the Living Wage Proposal at the Board of Supervisors.

When this proposal goes to the Board of Supervisors they will have the opportunity to join other communities and be in the vanguard of reform. Be ready to attend and support this important a living wage in Sonoma County. FDR would approve!