Income Inequality Affects Us All
City task force examines the real economic impact of minimum wage
As the possibility for narrowing the income gap comes closer to reality for low wage workers in Sacramento, Local 1000 members are pushing to keep the needs of the working families top-of-mind for the city’s decision makers. At the third meeting of Sacramento’s Income Inequality Task Force on August 12, our members took their turn at the public comment podium to give voice to the real experiences of working Californians—and their community partners—who struggle to live on minimum wage.
Though almost all Local 1000 members make over $15 an hour—the top tier of possible increases being discussed—the union represents over 45,000 workers in the Sacramento region and is deeply ingrained in the economic health of the city.
“Income inequality affects more than just low-wage workers,” said Crystal McCray, a steward from DLC 788 who testified at the meeting, noting how poverty ripples through families and communities. “It touches most of us in some way at some time.”
As at previous meetings, task force members and the assembled observers listened to presentations by researchers and analysts. This meeting’s focus was on potential effects on working families, businesses and the Sacramento economy in general when the minimum wage is increased. And, though representatives of the business sector that wish to continue to pay sub-poverty wages without reprisal used flawed research to warn of job loss and rising prices, Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker, who is a task force member, continued to bring the conversation back to the real problem: workers not making it.
“No one who works full time should have to live in poverty, “ Walker said.
The heart of the income inequality problem is simple: Some people work all day and don’t have enough to live on. The low wage workers who have been testifying at the task force meetings tell heartbreaking stories of how not having enough money coming into their households affects every aspect of their lives, causing them to make can’t-win choices between things like feeding their children or paying the rent and buying needed medication or making a car payment. With a daily list of choices like these, getting the training and support—not to mention child care—to move on to a better job is out of reach.
Local 1000 activists like McCray think the time is right for Sacramento to join major cities like Los Angeles and Seattle in raising the wage to pull residents out of poverty.
“Hopefully,” she said, “the task force can utilize this period of prosperity in Sacramento to build on one of our strengths: communities caring for each other.”