Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

California college graduates and students to benefit from minimum wage increase

college student

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Miguel Cortez, a teacher’s assistant in Northridge, California, is looking forward to July 1st, 2014. Not because of school being out, but because California’s minimum wage will increase from $8 an hour to $9. A recent grad of California State University at Northridge, he knows exactly where that extra money will go: bills and saving up for graduate school.

“The increase won’t make me rich, obviously, but at least I’ll have more money to spend on the fun stuff like bills, bills and more bills,” Cortez said laughingly.

His story isn’t different from many recent college graduates. In 2012, there were 70% more college graduates working minimum wage jobs than 10 years ago. Much of that has been pinned to the fact that three-fifths of the jobs lost during and after the 2008 recession were middle-class paying jobs. For students, those were key entry-level career positions.

For most college students working minimum wage after graduation, they were also working minimum wage during school.

When faced with rising tuition, new books every semester, and living expenses, these part-time to full-time jobs are vital for students looking to complete job-ready degrees. With one of the highest cost of living states in the nation, California recognized the challenges of minimum wage workers and voted to raise the minimum wage this past September. Governor Brown recently signed the bill into law with a phased increase up to $9 in July and finally up to $10 in January of 2016.

Some critics say this could lead to fewer jobs for young adults, but with the continued rise in cost of living, most young adults are grateful that it will be a little easier to make ends meet.

In Washington, where we enjoy the highest minimum wage in the country, the minimum wage will also see an increase. Come January 1st, 2014, workers will receive a thirteen-cent increase to $9.32 as part of Washington’s mandated  cost-of-living adjustments.

By EOI intern Elissa Goss

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