By PHOEBE SOLOMON
Irvine has faced stark criticism recently in light of the repeal of the Living Wage Ordinance, which set Irvine’s minimum wage at $11 per hour. The new wage will be $9 per hour, which is level with the state’s minimum wage. The Living Wage Ordinance was established in order to allow a full-time, minimum-wage worker to survive above the poverty line.
Irvine does not need to take such tremendous fiscal cuts, especially not at the expense of the city’s lower income citizens. Irvine is easily one of the more affluent cities in California, but this wealth is not for a lack of minimum-wage workers; rather, it is because, until recently, a greater-than-average minimum wage allowed Irvine citizens to survive off of their wages. California’s minimum wage is lower than Irvine’s because there are cities in California who cannot afford to offer $11 minimum wages; these cities are the ones where citizens are consistently living at or below the poverty line.
Incidentally, California often has the highest poverty rates, a statistic which current legislators are trying to alter in the coming years. Cutting Irvine’s minimum wage is hardly practical; legislation is being pushed through the California Senate that would effectively raise the statewide minimum wage from $9 to $11 per hour as soon as next year. If this aggressive legislation succeeds, then Irvine will once again need to raise their minimum wage to at least $11.
The minimum wage affects those providing services for Irvine directly through the city or through a private firm which holds a contract with Irvine. The direct implications are that the city is cutting spending by neglecting those who provide services for all of Irvine’s citizens.
When the ordinance went into effect, Irvine was largely praised for its progressive legislation and humanitarian efforts. Now, on the precipice of larger economic problems facing California, Irvine looks to firmly muffle every past effort to provide low-wage workers with fair paychecks.
The decision comes on the heels of a Los Angeles decision to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020. To be clear, if Los Angeles can afford to raise its minimum wage, Irvine can afford to at least stabilize its minimum wage.
Councilmember Christina Shea told the Orange County Register that the ordinance is a “burden on our taxpayers.” This statement plainly demonstrates fiscal irresponsibility. There are many ways to cut a city’s budget without victimizing the citizens who work for and benefit from the city.