By now I am sure you have all heard of CA SB 3, the minimum wage bill signed by Governor Brown that raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022. This date is delayed by employers of 25 people or fewer until 2023. It also builds in annual cost of living increases starting in 2024. That is not the only bill working its way through the State Legislature, more on that later.
So what does this bill mean to us here in Sonoma and Marin Counties? I’m not exactly sure and I am not an economist but in my opinion we are looking at rising costs for what a lot of us take for granted as inexpensive goods and services. I would think that most of us in agriculture are already paying more than $10 per hour (current CA minimum wage) and I can’t think of anyone who can find people who would work for $10 even if they wanted too. That said the reason I think we need to pay more for our labor in ag here is that it is skilled labor. Skilled in whatever field they work in and worth a premium for their knowledge and speed to get the job done.
The only employment I can imagine paying $10 per hour is entry level restaurant or janitorial jobs in this area. I know that ag does employee a lot of people at the current minimum wage level in other parts of the state and can do so where unemployment is high and the cost of living is significantly lower than here. So when people in those areas raise their wages by 50% to $15 per hour we will have to to do the same to keep our workers from moving to less expensive areas to live in. I would imagine an employee making $12 today will be making $18 in 2022. Anyone who thinks this recent hike in minimum wages will not affect us much here is ignorant.
Another aspect to keep in mind for agriculture is that the Federal minimum wage is still $7.25 per hour. At this time there is discussion to raise this but no solid plan. We in California need to hope the Fed’s raise this as much as possible to keep California competitive at a National level. Luckily there are many crops we can only grow here. Unfortunately there are many others that can be grown elsewhere. As we raise the cost of doing business (already we have some of the most regulations and highest taxes in the U.S.) those crops that can be grown elsewhere will. Especially in a water scarce state where policy favors golf courses in the desert over fields of food.
The next labor bill on the horizon here in California is AB 2757-ag overtime. This is a bill to change the ag work week to 40 hours per week (instead of 60) and 8 hours per day (instead of 10). Now I think SB 3 will be a tough pill to swallow. AB 2757 is too much too fast and we need to help encourage putting the brakes on it. The best and easiest way to do this is Farm Team.
Farm Team is a way to easily send letters to your elected officials opposing or supporting different legislation. CFBF runs the program and makes it very simple to help mail our elected officials when important issues like AB 2757 pop up. Please take the time to sign up for it if you have not already. Just search “Farm Team CFBF” on your web browser and sign up. You won’t regret it and our elected officials need to hear form all of us.