Calif. Conservative Ron Unz Pushes For $12 Minimum Wage, Defying Republican Lawmakers

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Earlier this year, congressional Republicans voted unanimously against raising the national minimum wage to slightly more than $10 per hour and one top Republican senator called for abolishing the minimum wage altogether.

But now, a wealthy California conservative activist is not only launching a campaign to raise the minimum wage in his state, he wants it raised more than Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has already signed legislation to raise it.

Earlier this year, Brown signed a bill that will raise California’s minimum wage to $10 per hour in 2016. President Barack Obama backs a $9 per hour minimum wage nationally. The current minimum wage is $7.25.

None of that is enough, says Ron Unz, who would appear to be a most unlikely source of that opinion.

Even though most Republican legislators staunchly oppose any hike in the minimum wage, Unz, a software entrepreneur-turned-conservative-activist, plans to get a measure on the California ballot next year that would boost the state’s minimum wage to $10 in 2015 — a year ahead of the current schedule — and up to $12 per hour in 2016, the New York Times reports.

Has the former editor of The American Conservative magazine had a born-again awakening as a bleeding heart liberal? Hardly. Unz’s reasons for backing the minimum wage hike, he says, are purely pragmatic.

“There are so many very low-wage workers, and we pay for huge social welfare programs for them,” Unz (pictured) told the Times. “This would save something on the order of tens of billions of dollars. Doesn’t it make more sense for employers to pay their workers than the government?”

A recent Gallup poll found that support for Obama’s proposed boost to $9 per hour now has overwhelming support, with more than three of every four Americans now in favor (76 percent).

More than half of rank-and-file Republicans (58%) now back the $9/hour minimum, even though their party’s elected officials have vowed to block any such increase.

Unz, 52, made his fortune creating financial software, the selling his company to the nationwide financial firm Moody’s. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of California in 1994 and previously backed a ballot measure that would have all but eliminated bilingual education in California.

SOURCES: New York Times, ThinkProgress, Talking Points Memo, Gallup, Wikipedia