In Pasadena, the fight for a higher minimum wage got an assist from the Rose Queen
The Pasadena Rose Queen had a big high school physics project due Tuesday morning, so she hoped to get out of Monday night’s City Council meeting early.
This did not happen.
The debate about how fast to roll out a minimum wage increase in Pasadena drew an overflow crowd of dueling economists, local business owners and workers, most of whom seemed to have more to say than could fit in the council’s loosely enforced one-minute speaking limit.
Queen Louise Deser Siskel sat in the rear of the room, keeping one eye on the proceedings and the other on her laptop, as she worked on her paper about what could be done to save our hides if a giant asteroid were about to collide with Earth.
Finally, nearly three hours into the meeting, Siskel’s name was called, and heads turned.
“I wonder if she’s on our side,” said a woman who held a sign calling for a $15 hourly minimum wage.
In the long and proud history of the Tournament of Roses, political activism was not generally something expected of the queen. But Siskel, the 101st young woman to wear the crown, has begun the royal court’s second century on a different path. As she noted in an op-ed piece for The Times, she is Jewish, she wears glasses, she is bisexual, and she wants to speak up for diversity, inclusion and scientific literacy.
“While Pasadena is an extraordinarily prosperous city,” Siskel told the City Council, “it also has the highest income inequality ratio of any major city.” She added: “Ensuring that anyone in our city can earn a living wage is truly an issue of equity.”
The issue before the City Council was not whether to raise the minimum wage, but how fast. Pasadena, Los Angeles and Santa Monica all put themselves on a fast track to gradually raise their minimum hourly wage to $15 by mid-2020, even though the state won’t hit that mark until 18 months later.
In Pasadena, the question was whether to stick with the schedule and bump pay from the current $13.25 to $14.25 an hour this July for companies with more than 25 employees.
The city commissioned two studies on the impact of staying the course, and unsurprisingly, two economists arrived at different conclusions.