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Why $15 Now in California
by Martin J. Bennett
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, June 2016

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation boosting California’s minimum wage from $10 per hour to $15 — a 50 percent increase, which will affect more than one-third of the workforce, making the state’s minimum the highest in the nation. This minimum wage hike will be phased in over six years, then automatically adjusted annually to offset rising costs of living.

Immediately after California, New York adopted a $15 minimum wage, followed by the District of Columbia. The Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey legislatures are now considering similar minimum wage increases.

However, a political puzzle needs examination. Last year, the governor and the Legislature’s Democratic leadership opposed a $13-an-hour minimum wage bill that was introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno.

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Workers’ Rights Board Hearing on Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley Contract Campaigns
By Eileen Morris
Sonoma Gazette, March 2016

Like many people with aging parents, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in pre and post-op hospital rooms with them as they awaited surgeries or began their recoveries. I’ve always been grateful to the nurses and technicians and aides who devoted themselves to my parents’ care. They had time to make them comfortable and to educate our entire family about how to speed recovery at home.

My Dad doesn’t remember much about his heart surgery, but he remembers Annie, the nurse who stayed with him all night and reassured him each time he awoke, confused and anxious as a result of anaesthesia.

Last weekend, I attended a North Bay Workers’ Rights Board hearing and, after hearing testimony from nurses and other hospital staff. Again and again, nurses and other hospital staff testified to working conditions that impact patient care and could imperil lives. Between 2011 and 2014, the California Department of Public Health received numerous complaints against local hospitals, and made findings that patient care had been severely compromised because the hospitals failed to staff adequately.

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Wages and Housing: Why Sonoma County Workers Can’t Afford the Rent
By Martin J. Bennett
Sonoma Gazette, February 2016

A widening gap between declining incomes and rising rents is fueling two powerful movements in the Golden State: one to raise the wage floor for low-wage workers, and another to control rents and increase funding for affordable housing.

According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, a combination of falling incomes and high rents is driving the worst rental-housing crisis in California since World War II. Between 2000-2014 in California adjusted median household income fell 8 percent while median rents jumped 20 percent. During this timeframe Sonoma County's median renter income dropped by 9 percent and median rents increased by 17 percent.

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