Progressive Women of Napa Valley is sponsoring a forum to start a community conversation about the economic impact of a local increase in the minimum wage.

The organization reports that while Napa County has over 3 million visitors a year who spend $1.4 billion dollars, more than 24 percent of local residents live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Low wages plus the high cost of housing make Napa unaffordable for many in the workforce and their families.

California’s minimum wage, currently $9 per hour, will go up to $10 on Jan 1, but some cities have established their own higher minimums. Voters in Oakland approved a $12.25 minimum wage that took effect this month.

Progressive Women of Napa Valley is hosting a forum Thursday, April 9, where a panel of experts will provide information about the social and economic opportunities and impacts of an increase in the minimum wage.

The forum, which will be open to the public, will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Napa County Library, 500 Coombs St., Napa.

Rep. Mike Thompson will moderate the panel discussion that includes:

— Ken Jacobs, chair of the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education and editor of “When Mandates Work, Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level.”

— Lynn Perez, deputy director, Division of Self-Sufficiency, Napa County Health & Human Services, who will provide information from the Napa Community Health Needs Assessment.

— Chris Benner, chair of Global Information and Social Entrepreneurship, University of California, Santa Cruz, who will focus on the growing national movement toward city-level increases in the minimum wage.

— Poncho Guevara, executive director, Sacred Heart Community Services, San Jose, who will provide a look at how current wages for low income employees prohibits them from being self-sufficient.

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