On a day when janitors, fast food workers and other low-wage employees marched in San Diego for higher salaries, the state Legislature approved an increase California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.
The proposal now moves to Gov. Jerry Brown, who plans to sign it during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday in downtown Los Angeles.
“California is proving once again that it can get things done and help people get ahead,” Brown said earlier this week when a deal with legislators was announced earlier this week. “This plan raises the minimum wage in a careful and responsible way and provides some flexibility if economic and budgetary conditions change.”
Under the proposal, California’s $10-an-hour minimum wage will increase to $10.50 in January 2017, then to $11 on Jan. 1, 2018. The minimum wage will then go up by a dollar in each of the following years until it reaches $15 in 2022, after which it will continue to rise each year by up to 3.5 percent to account for inflation.
Businesses with 25 or fewer employees get an extra year to raise their wage, so that workers will be paid $15 by 2023.
The plan also gives the governor the ability to temporarily halt the raises if there is a forecasted budget deficit of more than one percent of annual revenue, or due to poor economic conditions such as declines in jobs and retail sales.
Government workers who provide in-home health services will receive an additional three paid sick days under the plan.
“One of the most basic elements of our social contract and one of the ideas upon which our society is based is the fundamental notion that if you get a job and work hard you will be able to support your family,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, said. “While California’s economy is growing, some of our hardest-working Californians have been left behind. California’s economic benefits must be shared by the people whose hard work is helping fuel our growth.”
The wage hike will affect 5.6 million workers, or about one-third of the statewide workforce, officials said.
The proposal is similar, although slightly slower, than an already- approved increased in the city of Los Angeles minimum wage. Under the city ordinance, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 on July 1 and eventually reach $15 per hour in 2020, with future increases pegged to the Consumer Price Index.
The same wage hike schedule was also adopted for the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.
A number of California cities have enacted local wage increases, including Los Angeles, San Franciso and San Jose, and San Diego voters will have the opportunity to vote on a minimum wage ballot measure in June.
Republicans and business leaders oppose the statewide minimum-wage hike, arguing it will lead to businesses reducing the size of their work force or increasing prices to cover the costs of the increased wages.
“While it may help some in the short-term, raising the minimum wage by 50 percent will eventually force many small businesses to make some tough choices,” said state Sen. Patricia Bates, a Republican who represents North San Diego County. “The unintended consequence may well be fewer entry-level jobs in the long-run.”
But supporters, primarily Democrats, rallied behind the proposal, saying workers earning minimum wage should be able to pay for basic necessities.
“Wages are not keeping pace with the cost of living in California. Income inequality continues to grow,” said Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. “This proposal will help millions of hard-working Californians while protecting taxpayers and small businesses if the economy experiences a downturn. We can be prudent and make sure workers are paid a reasonable, livable wage at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a choice.”
Labor unions are pushing two separate ballot initiatives aimed at raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Backers of one of the initiatives have said they will drop their effort if the Legislature approves the minimum wage hike. Backers of the other initiative said they are waiting until the governor signs the bill before deciding whether to drop their measure.
City News Service contributed to this article.
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