February 11, 2019
Mayor Terry Tornek
District 1 Tyron A.L. Hampton
District 2 Margaret McAustin
District 3 John J. Kennedy
District 4 Gene Masuda
District 5 Victor M. Gordo
District 6 Steve Madison
District 7 Andy Wilson
Re: Urging Pasadena City Council to vote YES to Increase the Minimum Wage
Dear Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and City Councilmembers:
We, the undersigned, are a coalition of Delegates and Delegates-elect representing voters of the 41st Assembly District in the California Democratic Party, the most powerful state Democratic Party organization in the country.
As Delegates and Delegates-elect of California’s 41st Assembly District, we seek to help create a society that puts human rights over property interests to reflect the dignity of all people. To that end, we seek to create an inclusive economy with equity and abundance for all and strongly urge the Council to stand on the side of our City’s families and communities in voting YES to continue the gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 1, 2020.
The issue of minimum wage is connected with the issue of wealth and income inequality, one of the great moral, economic, and political issue of our time.
It bears repeating that:
America now has more wealth and income inequality than any major developed country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is wider than at any time since the 1920s.
The top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.
Despite huge advancements in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages.
Pasadena is not immune from the issue of income inequality. In fact, according to Professors Peter Dreier and Mark Maier, Pasadena is one of California’s most unequal cities.
In Pasadena, the top 20% earns over half (53.6%) of resident income, while the bottom 20% earns a mere 2.2%.
The gap between the richest 20% of households ($294,533 average annual income) is more than 24 times greater than that of the poorest 20% ($12,153 average annual income).
While Pasadena has a poverty rate at 15.5% (higher than the national average), the number of households making $200,000 a year continues to increase, further increasing the income inequality gap.
One-third of Pasadena workers (over 23,000 of 72,000) earn less than $15 per hour.
Moreover, the common portrayal of who would benefit from an increased minimum wage law is that of a summer employed teenager. However, the reality is much different.
According to the UC Berkeley Labor Center’s analysis:
The average low-wage worker in California is working full-time, earning more than half of their family’s total income, almost half of whom have children.
The majority of California’s low-wage workers are retail sales workers, personal care aides, childcare workers, and cooks and food preparation workers – our friends and neighbors.
(In addition, according to Professors Dreier and Maier, official government data does not account for day laborers, home care workers, and gardeners.)
The 2018 Platform of the CA Democratic Party includes a plank regarding Labor, Economic Justice and Poverty Elimination. It states that “California’s strong workforce is among our nation’s most valuable resources” and that
“California’s future prosperity will depend upon jobs that ensure a minimum standard of living and that improve the quality of life for all its residents.”
To meet the basic economic needs of all Californians, the Platform calls for:
“Support[ing] a statewide minimum wage with a path to at least $15 per hour, and then indexed for inflation, and living wages in areas where the increasingly high cost of living and rising inflation renders it impossible to afford the basic necessities of life.”
Too often, we consider policy decisions from a strictly economic perspective.
As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed in his historic 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech:
“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.”
We understand the majority of minimum wage research comes from a strictly economic perspective, and lacks the narratives of those most directly affected by an increase in Pasadena’s minimum wage law – the over 23,000 Pasadenans who are currently working for inadequate wages.
Nowhere in Pasadena, indeed in America, can an individual working full-time at the minimum wage afford to rent a one bedroom apartment. Think of how stressful it must be to live on less than $25,000, and especially if you have a child.
We also must not forget that about two-thirds of all Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) students live in low-income families, qualifying for free and reduced lunch, meaning their households earn less than $43,000 a year.
When a parent is struggling to pay rent and other basic necessities, this affects the physical and mental health of not only the parent, but also the children, including the academic outcomes, future earnings, and work hours of the children. This, in turn, influences the classroom atmosphere, affecting their classmates.
Professors Drier and Maier in fact conclude that PUSD’s declining enrollment and budget woes are due in large part to the displacement of the poor as a result of rising rents and home prices. Raising the minimum wage is one important way in which we can minimize declining enrollment and strengthen PUSD schools.
We agree with PUSD Board member Elizabeth Pomeroy that raising the minimum wage would not only help lift families out of poverty and improve the local economy, but also help our youth overcome obstacles to success in school.
The Council unanimously approved increasing Pasadena’s minimum wage to $15 an hour; it’s in alignment with the minimum wage laws of our sister cities Los Angeles and Altadena; and a recent poll shows 81% of all Pasadenans are strongly in favor of it.
We must ensure that no full-time worker or child lives in poverty.
Accordingly, we, the undersigned, strongly urge the Council to stand on the side of Pasadena’s families and communities in voting YES to continue the gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour by July 1, 2020.
Additionally, we urge the Council to take steps so that the minimum wage is indexed to inflation to keep pace with growth in the typical worker’s wages and explore phasing out the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities.
Pamela Casey Nagler, M.A., Democratic Assembly District Delegate-elect, AD 41
Mike Boos, D.M.A., Democratic Assembly District Delegate-elect, AD 41
Tina Fredericks, Democratic Assembly District Delegate, AD 41, President of Democrats of Pasadena Foothills
Steven Gibson, Ph.D., Democratic Assembly District First Alternate Delegate-elect, AD 41
Una Lee Jost, Esq., Democratic Assembly District Delegate-elect, AD, Steering Committee member of the Progressive Asian Network for Action; constituent of Pasadena Councilmember Gene Masuda, District 1
Julie McKune, Democratic Assembly District Delegate-elect, AD 41
Robert M. Nelson, Ph.D., Democratic Assembly District Delegate, AD 41; constituent of Pasadena Councilmember Victor Gordo, District 5
Mindy Pfeiffer, M.A., Democratic Assembly District Delegate-elect, AD 41; constituent of Pasadena Councilmember Victor Gordo, District 5
Marguerite Renner, Ph.D., Democratic Assembly District Delegate, AD 41; constituent of Pasadena Councilmember Victor Gordo, District 5
Jason Schadewald, Democratic Assembly District Delegate, AD 41
Jordan Vannini, Democratic Assembly District Delegate, AD 41; constituent of Pasadena Councilmember Victor Gordo, District 5
1worker1vote.org, “America’s National Inequality Snapshot (1941–2016) – Chapter 1/3,” available online at: http://1worker1vote.org/americas-national-inequality-snapshot-1941-2016-chapter1/
Dreier, P. and Meier, M., “A critical look at what makes Pasadena such an ‘unequal’ place to live,” (Pasadena Weekly Jan. 24, 2019), available online at: https://www.pasadenaweekly.com/2019/01/24/a-critical-look-at-what-makes-pasadena-such-an-unequal-place-to-live
UC Berkeley Labor Center, “Low Wage Work in California Data Explorer,”
available online at: http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/low-wage-work-in-california/
(last retrieved Feb. 11, 2019).
California Democratic Party, 2018 Platform: Labor, Economic Justice and Poverty Elimination, available online at: https://www.cadem.org/our-california/platform/2018-platform-labor-economic-justice-and-poverty-elimination
Mariscal, D. “Pasadena’s Fight for a Living Wage: Where Do We Go From Here?” (LA Progressive May 14, 2018), available online at: https://www.laprogressive.com/pasadena-fight-4-fifteen/