The Fight for 15 has won a major victory on the West Coast: The state of California has struck a tentative deal to instate a $15 minimum wage for all hourly workers by 2022, according to anonymous sources cited by the LA Times. The governor is expected to make a formal announcement sometime today.
The California minimum wage is currently $10, which went into effect last January; under the new deal, that would increase "to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, with a 50-cent increase in 2018 and then $1-per-year increases through 2022."
The deal was struck between legislators and labor unions in lieu of putting the issue to a vote, "averting a costly political campaign this fall"; previous polling indicated that California voters would have approved such a measure, essentially forcing lawmakers' hands.
The move toward a $15 minimum wage has already been adopted in the cities of Los Angeles (by 2020) and San Francisco (by 2018), as well as in Seattle; meanwhile in the state of New York, last summer Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his support for a plan that would raise the state minimum to $15 by 2021, but he’ll need to seek legislative support in the State Congress to do so. The proposed wage increase would happen more quickly in New York City, where workers would earn $15 by 2018.
The California plan for $15 an hour would also include tipped workers, and some are urging the state of New York to follow suit: "The move to $15 in a state that long ago did away with the antiquated system of a sub-minimum wage for tipped workers will bring significant improvement in the lives of restaurant workers, who nationally experience poverty at twice the rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce," says Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. "Lifting wages for all workers is a question of basic fairness. We urge New York State to follow California's leadership and not leave behind tipped workers, the majority of whom are women."
Many business owners, including restaurateurs, have balked at minimum wage increases, saying they will decrease revenue and stunt business growth. The new California deal will make a small concession for small business owners: "Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply, delaying their workers receiving a $15 hourly wage until 2023," reports the Times.
Meanwhile, recent studies have shown that 40 percent of U.S. restaurant workers live in poverty, and 52 percent of fast food employees are dependent on government assistance.
Update: March 31, 6:20 p.m. California lawmakers have passed the bill to raise the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Governor Jerry Brown will sign it into law on Monday, April 4.