“Wage deal part of new political process”

Thad Kousser has written this oped for the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The deal to phase in a $15 minimum wage that Gov. Jerry Brown, legislators and union leaders cut recently is huge news for many reasons — California becomes the first state to tackle economic inequality with a wage this high, the deal protects the purchasing power of workers by tying the wage to inflation in the future, and businesses get the protection of a wage freeze during recessions. But what could prove just as historic as the contents of this deal is the way that it was made.

As the first example of an unheralded reform recently made to our state’s initiative process, the minimum wage agreement shows how compromise can come when state leaders use direct democracy and representative democracy to cooperate rather than compete. Those two processes intertwined to make history possible in Sacramento. Here’s how it worked.

Unions and other advocacy groups provided the pressure that created the deal by circulating two aggressive minimum wage propositions, with one of them attracting enough signatures to become eligible for the November ballot late last month. This brought legislators and, most notably, the governor to the bargaining table over last weekend. It provided the “gun behind the door” that the Progressive Era leaders envisioned as a spur to legislative action when they created California’s direct democracy process over a century ago.


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