Governor Brown Signs Bill to Raise Minimum Wage to $15
California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation April 4 that will raise the state’s minimum wage in steps over the next six years to $15 an hour.
California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said in a statement, “With the Governor’s signature on SB 3 today, California strikes a serious blow to income inequality. This new law lifts families and strengthens our communities. The statement California made today will echo throughout the country. By boosting 6 million workers across the state, we’re saying that all work is valued and all working people have value. No matter your job, you are contributing to the economic success of your company, your community and your nation. By lifting those at the bottom of the economic ladder, we level the playing field for everyone. California is setting all workers on a path out of poverty and restoring the American Dream.”
Pulaski said the signing is “a testament to the power working people hold when we stand together to fight for justice. California has once again set the bar for the rest of the country. We’re on the leading age of a movement to change America. The wave of higher wages that starts here today will cascade to other states, bringing with it fresh hope to millions of working people across the country.”
The Labor Federation’s Communications Director, Steve Smith, reported that Gov. Brown had joined legislative leaders, workers and unions to announce a deal March 28 on the legislation to make California the first state to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. “This day was a long time in the making,” Smith wrote. “Worker led movements like the Fight for 15, labor unions and community groups have been gathering momentum for several years on this issue.
“To see California’s Governor hug Burger King worker Holly Diaz after she tearfully told a crowded room of reporters that this wage increase is going to make all the difference in her life and the life of her young daughter was one of those moments that puts everything in perspective. Raising wages lifts up families and communities. It restores dignity to workers. It makes people whole again.”
Hundreds of janitors, home care workers, grocery employees, hotel workers and others in low-wage jobs traveled to the Capitol to meet with their elected leaders March 28 to urge them to vote yes on the bill, and stayed to watch as the bill was voted on in both houses. As soon as both houses of the California Legislature passed Senator Mark Leno’s Senate Bill 3, workers headed outside the Capitol, where they were met by California State Secretary of Labor, David Lanier, who confirmed to the cheering crowd that Governor Jerry Brown would sign the bill.
The legislation will increase the state’s $10 an hour minimum wage to $10.50 next year and then go up every year until it reaches $15 by 2023. Workers will also receive three paid sick days annually.
Smith noted that, “It’s important to note that this deal didn’t just happen. It’s the culmination of years of work by thousands of workers across California who were brave and courageous enough to demand that employers pay a living wage. And it wouldn’t have happened without unions fighting every day not just for our own members, but for all workers seeking a path to the American Dream.”
Laphonza Butler, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California and SEIU Local 2015 said, “Wages didn't get raised until workers raised their voices. The credit for making history today belongs to the workers who spoke out and risked it all, the labor unions and community organizations who supported them, and elected leaders here in California who listened. As a result, millions of Californians are on the path out of poverty.”
Lisa Scott, a home care provider from El Dorado County shared how this win will impact her life: “I am relieved that our elected leaders have heard us. For me, $15 an hour means I can have fresh produce without relying on food banks. I live in a rural area but that doesn’t mean it’s not an expensive place to live and work. In fact, gas is expensive because I have to do so much driving. I’ve never met my youngest grandson who is five because I haven’t been able to save money for a plane ticket. $15 means I can finally save money to visit him and my other grandchildren out of state.”
The historic vote puts California one step closer to lifting the wages of 5.3 million Californians—or one third of all workers. Among those who will see a raise, 96 percent are age 20 or older and 37 percent have children according to a new report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center. A gradual increase in California’s minimum hourly wage from $10 to $15 by 2023 would raise wages of 5.6 million workers by an average of 24 percent, or $2.19 an hour, according to the report. The state’s minimum wage will increase to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2022, for businesses with more than 25 workers and by Jan. 1, 2023, for smaller businesses.
According to the UCB report, local minimum wage laws already in place will also generate pay increases for an additional 800,000 California workers.
“Based on our previous research, we expect the proposed law to have large positive effects on living standards for a large number of California workers and very small effects on employment,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center.
San Mateo County Central Labor Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Shelley Kessler said, “It is important to note that passage of the bill in the legislature does not prevent local jurisdictions from accelerating the process to raise the minimum wage before 2023—which is especially important in regions like the Bay Area with our high cost of living.”