California could change history
In a historic first, California has agreed to raise its minimum wage to $15 by 2022. Despite national disagreements between $12 and $15, California, one of the most expensive states to live in, has opted for the latter.
Following three and half years of one-day strikes by low wage workers and the Service Employees International Union, California Governor Jerry Brown reached an agreement with the state legislature to make California the first state to raise the pay floor to $15.
The increase will be achieved by hiking the minimum wage up by 50 cents in 2017 and again in 2018, then raising it by $1 every year until 2022.
The decision will impact about 6.5 million residents, or about 43 percent of the state’s workforce, who currently work for less than $15 per hour.
According to Paul Sonn of the National Employment Law Project, “this is a very, very significant increase” that would “for the first time…begin to reverse years of falling pay,” and will “create national momentum for other states.”
Said Brown, who retains the right to slow or halt pay increases in the event of an economic disaster, or to free up funds to pay government deficits, “this plan raises the minimum wage in a careful and responsible way and provides some flexibility if economic and budgetary conditions change.”
Still some fight left
The decision is part of a larger national campaign, led by labor unions and grassroots organizations like Fight for $15, to increase the federal minimum wage. Successes have come city by city and state by state. Los Angeles, San Francisco, several cities in California, and Seattle have raised the pay floor to $15.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a similar pay hike for New York City in 2019, with the statewide minimum wage increasing to $15 by 2021.
Federal minimum wage remains at $7.25. Republican legislators have repeatedly blocked attempted to increase it to $10, saying the increased cost will cause companies to slash jobs or shut down completely.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has made a national minimum wage of $15 parts of its platform. Bernie Sanders supports it, while Hilary Clinton is satisfied with a minimum wage of $12 per hour.