On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage by 50%, from the current level of $10 an hour (the highest current state minimum wage in the US.
California was the first state to pass such bill nationwide, all Republicans in the legislature voted No. Yet not one single Republican showed public opposition to it in public, nor are making a big fuss about. Not even the California GOP party apparatus put out any public statement voicing its opposition to it, not even on social media. the Party officials pretended it never happened. Apart from WSJ editorial, conservatives in the state are staying away from this minimum wage fight; not even those fancy conservative intellectuals at the Hoover Institution are saying anything, and here is why.
You can make a rational economic argument about the markets and the many factors involved in the supply-and-demand approach, but there is also the economic reality of the state.
This is the jobs report from October 2015. the map above shows that the wealthiest coastal counties with that already have mandatory minimum wage of $12.50 has since March of 2015.
The map also show that coastal areas that already have mandatory minimum wage have the strongest job growth and lowest unemployment, whereas counties in Central Valley where the minimum wage is still $10 have the highest unemployment and the Job report shows it has the lowest job growth.
Some that proposed an alternative regional wages suggested that a regional minimum wage in the state would be more apt for a state with big diverse industries. However, if the poor rural farming areas in the Central Valley were to keep their minimum wage at $1o while rich coastal areas were to move ahead with a $15 minimum wage by 2022, this will incentivize agricultural workers – who work under dismal working conditions and few labor protections – to shift to different job industries in better off coastal counties where they can easily increase their wage by 50% just by driving 2 hours, or less.
Moreover, these areas tend to be still Republican areas relying on Mexican undocumented workers. It estimated that between 70-90% of agricultural workers are undocumented immigrant workers. And thus, there was an economic incentive for Republicans to rise a statewide minimum and opposed a regional minimum wage to keep workers in farming agricultural areas, despite the fact these are political Republican areas with chronic high unemployment and low job growth while rich coastal areas with low unemployment and strong job growth are political blue areas.
California is the “breadbasket” of America because California’s agriculture supplies more than half of the nation’s vegetables, fruits, and nuts, a high value must be placed on the Central Valley’s role as a critical part of the nation’s food supply. Also, California’s $43.5 billion-a-year farm industry depends on a shadow workforce of undocumented Mexican immigrants.
Thus, Republicans need workers in those rural areas to keep the support of “white” Republican ranchers that still control the agricultural industries in eastern part of the state and the Central Valley. And there is one thing that Republican have learned in the state is not to attack agricultural and low-wage workers when they pick political fights.
As a result, Republicans in the state are quiet for both economic and political reasons. Republicans were allowed to vote No. But those GOP legislators, and the Party apparatus, have not embarked on a campaign to explain voters in their district, and statewide, why raising minimum wage is bad for the state; and it’s in the best interest of GOP not to talk about it.
Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or @