Raise the Wage Davis hosts kick-off campaign

Raise the Wage Davis, a grassroots campaign, kicked off their initiative to raise the minimum wage in Davis to $15 per hour on Jan. 31.

The group has submitted their initiative to the City of Davis to get it on the November 2014 ballot. The next step, according to Neil Ruud, communications director of the campaign, is to collect signatures to ensure the measure’s place on the ballot.

“$15 per hour is just enough to be self sufficient to the point where you wouldn’t have to take assistance,” said Bernie Goldsmith, the campaign co-chair.

Goldsmith said that the cost of living in Davis is at a point at which $15 per hour isn’t even enough for a family with one child.

Goldsmith and Ruud said that movements to raise the minimum wage in cities across America were their inspiration for bringing a movement to Davis.

“We’re not political experts but we know what it’s like to be working poor,” Goldsmith said.

The way the bill is structured is similar to others of its kind in different cities in that is adjusts the minimum wage over time. If the bill were to pass in November of 2014, the minimum wage would go up to $11 per hour in December 2014, $13 per hour the following July and to $15 per hour in January 2016.

“This will win because it is for everyone and if the people vote then they will win,” Goldsmith said.

Sean Rycraft, campaign co-chair, said that people could expect the prices to go up if the minimum wage were to be raised. He said that when San Francisco raised the minimum wage, prices increased by three percent. “But that’s not different than any other year. Are you going to notice if [the price] of your burrito goes from $5 to $5.15?” Rycraft said.

According to research from the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses actually grew 29 percent faster on average in states with higher minimum wages than the federal minimum between 1998 and 2003.

“What’s interesting for Davis [is] it’s very small and the restaurant population is highly independent. More than half are doing annual sales of less than $500,000 and most are making profit margins of 1 to 5 percent on average; this could devastate the restaurant community in Davis,” said Angie Pappas, spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association.

According to Pappas, on average, labor takes up one-third of a restaurant’s costs. If that cost were to almost double many restaurants would likely go under.

“If it’s a small independent mom and pop it’s going to be really difficult for them to keep their doors open and that’s the reality of the situation in Davis,” Pappas said.

Brandon Kuhens, who works two minimum wage jobs, one being a cook for the UC Davis Dining Commons and the other as a cook for Original Steve’s Pizza, said that he has to work two minimum wage jobs just to get by.

Kuhens said that it has been increasingly difficult for him to be able to live in Davis because of the rising rent prices.

“It’s tough to be able to afford rent in this town, it’s ridiculous really,” Kuhens said.

Although Kuhens said he does think the minimum wage needs to be raised he doesn’t think that it has to be raised to $15 per hour. He said he thinks that anywhere from $11 to $13 would be adequate.

Goldsmith said that this bill “touches on things that are wrong with this country right now.”

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