Labor activists continue push for $15

Activists claim city minimum-wage increase amounts to less money for workers

Nearly 200 activists—and one menacing Ronald McDonald—marched to the Capitol from City Hall this past Tuesday in support of a $15 minimum wage.

Nearly 200 activists—and one menacing Ronald McDonald—marched to the Capitol from City Hall this past Tuesday in support of a $15 minimum wage.


City electeds approved a plan to raise the minimum wage last month, but a couple hundred activists showed up at City Hall this past Tuesday at noon to ask for more money. Their beef? The workers want $15 an hour, not the city’s proposed $12.50—and they say the city’s plan ultimately would amount to a pay cut.

Here’s how: Sacramento passed a minimum-wage ordinance, negotiated at the 11th hour. Under the plan, businesses and nonprofits would raise wages incrementally each year until 2020, when the minimum would reach $12.50 an hour.

The catch is that businesses with fewer than 100 employees would be allowed to delay pay bumps by a year. And businesses that offer satisfactory health insurance could deduct $2 from the total bottom wage: for example, $12.50 to $10.50.

Sacramento Central Labor Council head Fabrizio Sasso says 98 percent of workers would see wage bumps delayed under the city plan.

He also argued that, because of the $2 health-care exemption for business, wage increases would be insignificant: $10.50 an hour is only 50 cents more than what the statewide minimum wage will be on January 1 of next year, he noted.

“Fifty cents, and if you work eight hours, that’s four bucks. It doesn’t even buy you a light-rail pass,” Sasso said.

The city has yet to release language on its minimum-wage ordinance even though it was passed on October 27. But it’s rumored that, under the new plan, local businesses that offer a “bronze” level health-care plan will be able to deduct $2 an hour from employee pay.

The catch is that most of these low-wage workers are already eligible for Medi-Cal health care. The new bronze plans would be more out of pocket for low-income workers; Labor Council attorneys estimate annual deductibles could be as high as $10,000.

“If you’re making $10.50, which someone who has the health-care credit will be making, what’s the benefit of having this type of health-care plan?” Sasso asked.

The union is checking into whether the city plan would exempt or preclude any kind of Medi-Cal eligibility if an employer is offering a plan.

At Tuesday’s rally, workers shouted for $15 at City Hall before marching to the Capitol.

“I’m a women studies major, so I’m passionate about this, the betterment of my people, of women, of people of color, of marginalized communities,” explained Natalia Serrato. The 21-year-old Sacramento State student works at In-N-Out Burger, where she currently earns more than minimum wage—but she could see fewer dollars in her pocket under the proposed city wage plan.

The union-dominated event comes nearly a year before the November 2016 election, when there might possibly be two competing SEIU minimum-wage initiatives on the ballot.

Sasso says two initiatives isn’t an issue. “This is a good problem to have. … It means that the momentum is in favor of the workers.”