Many workers across California will punch in at their jobs with a little more confidence on January 1, 2022, when the statewide minimum wage will reach $15 an hour. But others will punch out before the new hourly wage has a chance to make much of a difference.
California’s low-wage economy is a function of two factors: too few dollars per hour, and too few hours per week. Often, it’s both, which adds up to an unlivable wage. The $15 minimum wage addresses just one side of the equation, and advocates for low-wage workers want to make sure that the new minimum wage comes with workdays long enough to earn a living.
The 162,000 hourly-wage workers of the Silicon Valley region are both underpaid and underemployed, according to a new report by the community-labor coalition Silicon Valley Rising (SVR). Among this group of workers, who represent California’s full demographic spectrum (in contrast to the blinding whiteness of its elite professional class), close to half are working part-time. The part-time portion of the labor force has over the past decade ballooned from 26 percent to 43 percent.
Part-timers on average earn less and work less. Over three-quarters of part-timers take home less than $15 an hour—a much greater proportion compared to full-time workers. But bad schedules are worse than low wages: SVR notes that generally, “Fully 41 percent of all hourly workers reported not knowing their work schedule more than seven days in advance.” This means never being able to plan or save for the future, or having to guess whether your food stamps or your rent budget will run out first this month. Only about a third of part-timers have paid vacation days, and just half receive retirement benefits.
Even when the minimum wage reaches $15 an hour in a few years, the part-time precariat will still struggle to make ends meet. A living wage in Silicon Valley is already about $15.70 per hour, but that’s only if you’re working 40 hours per week.
The official “part-time” count suggests these workers are idling for much of the day, but often part-timers work multiple part-time jobs simultaneously. Sometimes even full-time workers take on part-time work to survive.
Ivan Hernandez Rodriguez has a full-time job at a spa service, but earns just $360 a week. So after his day shift ends at 4:30, he works a part-time fast-food job until 1 am, for roughly an additional $150 a week.