Davis organization attempts to raise minimum wage to $15

Raise the Wage Davis has been an active organization in both the city and on campus since early January, and its main goal has been to raise Davis’ minimum wage from $8 to $15.

Raise the Wage Davis’ first event was its campaign kick-off in early January. Since then it has also hosted a Rally for a Living Wage on April 19, and its members were also present at the Inequality for All screening at the Mondavi Center on May 19.

The organization is comprised of a number of Davis citizens, and a few UC Davis students and workers. One of these students is Hayley Benham-Archdeacon,  a third-year transfer student double majoring in political science and public service. She is also the chief spokesperson and deputy field director of Raise the Wage Davis.

“We are not just coming from the side of the moral imperative of not paying people poverty wages; we have economic sense on our side as well,” Benham-Archdeacon said.

Benham-Archdeacon said that there is still a lot of confusion regarding the topic of the minimum wage, as some believe it will negatively affect their communities. On their website, however, Raise the Wage Davis claims that raising the wage to $15 would have several positive impacts on the community as well. They said more money would be put into the pockets of customers who would create more business, and that taxpayers would also pay less money for poverty relief. This would mean having their tax money spent on roads, schools and other public works instead.

“The minimum wage is one of the most widely studied topics in the field of economics. So it’s weird that there is so much misinformation about it,” Benham-Archdeacon said.

Benham-Archdeacon said that many of the counter-arguments against raising the minimum wage may seem intuitive, but are mostly untrue.

“I mean, I believed most of that misinformation till about three of four months ago, before I started looking in to it,” Benham-Archdeacon said.

According to Bernie Goldsmith, Raise the Wage Davis’ campaign co-chair, many of these counter-arguments are a result of circulated misconceptions of the negative effects of raising the minimum wage.

Goldsmith said the first common misconception that people have is that the average minimum wage worker is young. In reality, he said that the average minimum wage worker is a 33-year-old woman.

Goldsmith has also found that the main supporters of raising the wage are those ages 55 or older, and the primary reason students don’t typically support raising the minimum wage is because they think it would mean higher prices for them.

According to Chris Benner, professor of community and regional development and a supporter of the campaign, raising the minimum wage wouldn’t have a significant impact on the consumer.

“The estimates for $15 of minimum wage are that it would be a 10 percent increase in restaurant prices and a four percent increase in retail,” Benner said.

Many business owners also worry about the additional costs that raising the minimum wage would have on their businesses. Benner added that research and practice points to the fact that raising the minimum wage has two positive impacts. First, by paying workers more, businesses tend to have lower turnover rates and are able to spend less money with training and startup costs. Secondly, workers are generally more productive.

Goldsmith cited a study by Daniel Aaronson, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The study found that with every 10 percent increase in the minimum wage, prices actually rose by only about 0.7 percent in the restaurant industry.

“In most industries, the proportion of the final price that is labor costs, it is a minority,” Benner said. “Even in restaurants, which is one of the most labor intensive industries, it’s only about a third of the cost which is labor. Raising the minimum wage only incrementally increases that labor cost.”

For the last six months, Raise the Wage Davis has been trying to collect 7,000 signatures for the fall ballot, but unfortunately they have fallen short of their goal. Benham-Archdeacon said that their new aim is to have the $15 minimum wage on next year’s ballot.

“People think that if they aren’t working, it’s really not their problem. Or if they make more than $15 an hour, they say, ‘why does it matter to me?’” Benham-Archdeacon said. “The reality is when you help one piece of the economy you help all the economy.”

Benham-Archdeacon said that she works two jobs, one for a low wage and the other as a volunteer. She moved to Davis from San Jose, which famously just made their minimum wage $10.

“When I saw that happen I saw an opportunity to do that here,” Benham-Archdeacon said.

Benham-Archdeacon also said that even though the recession has technically been over since 2010, we are still not in the best economic climate. But raising the minimum wage could mean more than just improving conditions for people who are working minimum wage jobs and could improve the overall economy for everyone, including students, in the future.

“It’s about improving income inequality, so that our degrees actually mean something,” Benham-Archdeacon said.

LEYLA KAPLAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.