EUREKA - It’s an initiative seeking to raise minimum wage from $9 to $12. Measure R has been in the works for a couple years and it will come down to a vote this November 4. Opinions on the measure are split.
“Measure R is a people's ballot initiative. The folks that started it started it 2.5 years ago. It is for large employers to pay a minimum of $12 and it will boost the local economy and help lift people out of poverty,” Sarah Torres, a representative from “Fair Wage Folks” said.
The measure was created to address the high level of poverty in Humboldt County. According to the US Census Bureau, 19% of the Humboldt County population lives below the poverty level, as compared to the 15% average in the state of California.
“I've lived here a long time and I've seen the economy get worse and worse and I believe that if you give low wage workers more money, they immediately spend that in the economy, therefore boosting it,” Torres added.
But for some organizations, higher wages do not solve the problem. HCAR is a non-profit that receives funding from the state to pay its employees. A raise in minimum wage locally would not be subsidized by the state.
“The best result of Measure R, if it happened, would be all of my workers would now be minimum wage workers with no hope of ever getting another raise until minimum wage was increased again. At worst, we would not get wage increases, and we would be out of business because we can't afford it,” Ross Jantz, Executive Director at HCAR, said.
But Measure R supporters say any state or federal change takes too long and Humboldt County needs change now.
“The state takes too long. People are in poverty for too long. They can't afford, no pun intended, they can’t afford to wait to have higher wages,” Torres said.
But we do wait…at least for another few weeks, for Election Day and the final voter tally on this measure.