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Deukmejian Calls On President to Increase U.S. Minimum Wage

January 24, 1988|DOUGLAS SHUIT | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian called on President Reagan Saturday to follow California's lead and raise the federal minimum wage to $4.25 an hour.

Deukmejian, in his weekly radio speech, noted that California's minimum wage is going from $3.35 to $4.25 in July and said the federal government should follow suit to be fair. The last time the minimum wage was increased was 1981, and Reagan opposes legislation pending in Congress to boost it.

Deukmejian, a Republican who usually supports Reagan's positions, said workers in California and other states "have seen their buying power shrink over the past seven" years.

The governor, in a letter to Reagan and members of Congress that he released Saturday, said since the last minimum wage increase, "the consumer price index has increased nearly 36% nationally." Deukmejian also said it is important to raise the minimum wage nationally "so that no state in the nation is at a competitive disadvantage just because it raised its basic wage for low-paid workers."

Highest Basic Wage

Ten other states have raised their minimum wages above the national rate, but California's will be the highest basic wage in the nation.

Deukmejian has been criticized by Democrats for not extending his support for the $4.25 minimum wage to waitresses and other workers who receive more than $60 a month in tips.

Those workers will receive a minimum wage of $3.50 under a two-tier wage structure created by the California Industrial Welfare Commission, the agency responsible for setting the state's minimum wage. Deukmejian supports the commission's policy.

Democrats have drafted legislation that would provide all workers with the same wage, and labor unions are threatening to take legal action to block the two-tier wage structure.

Donna Lucas, Deukmejian's deputy press secretary, said Saturday that the governor continues to support the Industrial Welfare Commission and likely will oppose the legislation.

Policy Set by Commission

"The governor believes the minimum wage policy should be set by the Industrial Welfare Commission, as opposed to legislation. The commission held public hearings and listened to all sides of the issue before adopting its policy," she said.

On another front, Deukmejian came under fire from Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) for not doing enough to bring new, high-technology projects to the state.

Roberti, in a radio address of his own, said that since 1984, California has lost out on four major high-technology projects, showing a "rather lackadaisical commitment" in at least one case. Most recently California was eliminated from consideration as a site for a proposed $4.4-billion federal atom smasher project being called the Superconducting Super Collider.

Roberti said Deukmejian should more aggressively attack housing, education and transportation problems to keep California competitive.

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