Legislature Passes Historic Minimum Wage Increase
by Steve Smith,
California Labor Federation
California made history last month. With the support of California’s unions, the Legislature voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour, the highest minimum wage in the country. The wage will be implemented in two steps: an increase to $9 per hour in July of next year, followed by another one-dollar increase to $10 in January of 2016. Gov. Brown has agreed to sign the bill, AB 10, authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo.
The wage increase will affect more than 2.3 million California workers, according the Economic Policy Institute. It means that single moms will have a little extra to support their families. It means seniors who’ve been forced to re-enter the workforce will have a little more to help pay for prescription drugs. And it means that all low-wage workers have received validation that their work is worthy of dignity and respect.
“Raising the minimum wage isn’t just an economic necessity. It’s a moral imperative,” California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski said. “For far too long, low-wage workers have toiled for far too little.”
The minimum wage deal came together with the strong support of Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders. “The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs. This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy,” Gov. Brown said.
The wage increase is expected to provide a significant economic boost to California. By providing an estimated $2.6 billion in additional wages to the state’s lowest-paid workers, California will reap $1 billion in new economic growth as workers spend their increased wages. Job growth will expand as businesses hire to meet the increased consumer demand.
Even at $10, low-wage workers will still struggle. We must continue to do everything possible to decrease economic inequality and provide opportunities for low-wage workers to move up the ladder. But the wage increase that passed last night establishes California as the national leader in supporting low-wage workers. That’s exactly where we should be.
Senate President pro Tempore Steinberg noted that, “For millions of California’s hard-working minimum wage employees, a few extra dollars a week can make a huge difference to help them provide for their families. They deserve a modest boost and after six years; an increase in California’s minimum wage is the right thing to do.”