Casey Platkin ’26 was a driving force behind legislation passed by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in November that will raise the minimum wage to $16.50.

ILR student spurs minimum wage hike back home

With the holiday break approaching, many ILR School students are looking forward to getting some well-deserved rest, eating home-cooked meals and reconnecting with family and friends back home.

Casey Platkin ’26 will do all those things while spearheading a grassroots campaign urging policymakers in San Mateo County, California, to establish an agency to help enforce the county’s new minimum wage law. It goes into effect April 1, 2023, and will impact thousands of farmworkers and others in a county – the fourth-richest in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report – that is bordered by San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Platkin was a driving force behind legislation passed by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in November that will raise the minimum wage to $16.50. Without the increase, minimum wage would have continued to reflect the state’s wage base, which goes to $15.50 on Jan. 1.

“The policy had been discussed previously and we were certainly in touch with our local labor council and its executive, but Casey really did help kickstart a more focused discussion,” said David Burruto, chief of staff to Supervisor Dave Pine, who proposed the increase along with Board President Don Horsley.

While in high school, Platkin worked at his local golf course – driving the machine that picks up golf balls on the practice range and cleaning carts – when he realized that he and his co-workers were making between $1 and $1.50 less per hour than workers within the city of Burlingame – just across the highway. He discovered that the wage discrepancy was due to the golf course’s location in an unincorporated area, meaning it’s not part of a city (it’s under county control) and doesn’t have the same type of representation in local government.

He also learned that there had been a proposal for a minimum wage increase several years earlier that never went for a vote. After speaking with Pine, Platkin was encouraged by the supervisor’s willingness to put forward a bill if enough support could be generated.

So Platkin – who has worked for local government officials, including the mayor of his hometown of Burlingame – spent the next year writing op-eds, presenting at advocacy meetings and collecting endorsements, before presenting his minimum wage proposal to the board. When it passed by a 5-0 vote, he felt inspired by what he’d helped make happen.

“It’s very exciting to me, as a young person wanting to go into policymaking, to see the impact that grassroots advocacy can make,” Platkin said. “A lot of the policy that impacts people's lives comes from city, county and local government, which I think is an important lesson to take away.”

Thanks in part to Platkin’s efforts, thousands of minimum wage workers – from the farm workers who produce food to the restaurant staff who prepare it – will receive a $2,080 annual raise. In addition, he said, raises in the minimum wage incentivize other companies paying slightly above minimum to raise their wages to stay competitive.

“The Board of Supervisors has delivered tangible assistance to low-wage workers who suffered the brunt of economic hardships caused by the pandemic,” Platkin said. “At just 17 years old, I was able to play a driving role in passing a policy that increases the salaries of thousands of workers by thousands of dollars. I hope this success story serves as a reminder of the powerful impact local government and grassroots advocacy can make.”

Julie Greco is a senior communication specialist in the ILR School.

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Adam Allington