History of Minimum Wage in Pasadena

In 2016, The Pasadena City Council voted in favor of a municipal minimum wage. Pasadena joined with Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County by adopting minimum wage laws that started at $10.50 an hour and would increase gradually each year to ultimately reach $15 an hour by 2020.  The ordinance allowed a one-year delay for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, so the minimum wage reaches $15 an hour in 2021 for those employers.

In 2015 an independent poll was commissioned and it showed support amongst the citizens for this increase by an overwhelming 74%. At least 63% of Pasadena voters supported the $15 minimum wage in every City Council district. The Pasadena City Council voted unanimously to pass this ordinance. However, under pressure from the local Chamber of Commerce and some upscale restaurants, the Pasadena City Council, unlike LA or LA County, inserted an unusual “pause” clause that freezes the wage this year at $12 an hour for small businesses and $13.25 an hour for the larger businesses unless they affirmatively vote to continue the path toward $15. The Council will soon be discussing whether to move forward toward $15 or renege on its promise to Pasadena’s working families.

Pasadena is a city of many riches. We are a cultural, architectural and business hub. We pride ourselves that we are bit more progressive than our neighbors. However, Pasadena has other distinctions as well. We are one of the most unequal City’s in the nation. We are a city plagued with homelessness and an unacceptable level of poverty.

The people who do our most odious, difficult and thankless jobs are asked to do so at wages that make it impossible for them to live in the city they serve. Long hours and multiple jobs are par for the course for many working people in Pasadena. This, at a time of record breaking profits for many of the very companies that refuse to share those profits with the people at the bottom who make them possible. Therefore, many of these individuals at the lowest rung of the wage ladder must rely on public assistance. What that means, in real terms, is that the taxpayers are forced to subsidize those same companies so that they can continue to carve their profits out of the backs of their employees and the tax payers in one fell swoop.  That is simply not fair or moral.

On Saturday January 26th several groups including NDLON, POP, Indivisible, DSA along with non-profits and religious groups from all faith will come together for a parade to promote support for the minimum wage.

Considering the turning of the tide we saw in the midterm elections; I believe that support for Pasadena’s minimum wage has only grown. However, prepare yourself for the Chamber of Commerce to trot out the very same arguments that were already proven long ago to be false.  They will claim, without evidence, that a higher minimum wage will cost jobs, will be bad for business, and will drive companies both large and small out of our fair city in a race to the bottom, wage wise. The facts on the ground in cities across America for the last four decades have proven just the opposite. By giving more cash to those at the bottom you actually grow the economy. The reason for that is the simple fact that people at the bottom spend that little extra from the pay checks almost immediately in a way that wealthy folks do not. Whether it’s shoes for a child, tires for a car, or healthier food choices at our local markets, the money that is spent from an increase in the minimum wage has a ripple effect that benefits us all and grows our economy.

On Saturday January 26th several groups including NDLON, POP, Indivisible, DSA along with non-profits and religious groups from all faith will come together for a parade to promote support for the minimum wage. To date there about 50-70 cars lined up to participate but we could always use more and we still need volunteers along the parade route to hand out flyers and answer questions. This is a call to show your support by showing up and helping out. If you wish to be part of the parade in your car send an email to aragonjul6768@gmail.com. You will need to send your name, contact info and the license of your vehicle and how many people you will be bringing. If you wish to volunteer along the route reach out to Luis Valentan at lvalentan@pasadenajobcenter.com .

Supporters of the minimum wage will voice their views at the next three City Council meetings on Monday evenings –  January 28, February 11, and possibly February 25.  I urge everyone who lives or works in Pasadena and believes that it is time for us as a city, state and nation to share the wealth of the richest country on the planet, the richest state in that union and one of the richest cities in California in a more equitable and moral manner. Please show up to the City Council meetings, which began at 6:30 pm, to share your voice and tell the Pasadena City Council why you believe this is the correct and just thing to do.

If you cannot make any of these events please do reach out to your own City Councilperson along with Mayor Terry Tornek and City Manager Steve Mermell and let them know, in no uncertain terms, where you stand. If you do not know who your city council person is, you can find out very easily by visiting https://findmydistrict.cityofpasadena.net  and simply put in your address. You will find all of the phone numbers for the Pasadena City Council members, Mayor Tornek and City Manager Mermell below. Call or write them and demand, in respectful terms, that you want your city to keep the promise they made to all of us two years ago and move forward towards a more equitable wage for those who need it most.

Vince DeStefano