California initiative signature prices soar
Gov. Jerry Brown, labor unions and state lawmakers have reached a deal to gradually raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, likely averting a fight on the November ballot, sources said late Saturday.
Democratic lawmakers were expected to discuss the agreement privately in a caucus on Monday. Brown presented the agreement to lawmakers last week, a source said.
The agreement, discussed by labor groups in a teleconference on Saturday, comes after intense advocacy by labor unions and statewide polls showing strong support for increasing the state’s mandatory minimum wage beyond its current $10 an hour.
The deal would raise the statewide minimum incrementally, reaching $15 an hour by 2022, and linking increases to inflation after that. Small businesses would be given an additional year to comply.
It also appears to include a concession to labor unions, who advocated for paid sick time for home health care workers, a source said.
The Governor’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, confirmed to The Associated Press on Saturday that an agreement had been reached.
Discussions surrounding the minimum wage increase come amid increasing concern about income inequality in the country.
According to a Public Policy Institute of California poll last week, 81 percent of likely California voters say the gap between the rich and poor is widening, and 58 percent of likely voters think government should do more to bridge the gap.
Brown, a fourth-term Democrat, had been reticent about a minimum wage increase, concerned about the impact of rising wages in the event of an economic downturn.
In January, he told reporters any wage increase “has to be done very carefully and it has to be done over time.”
The agreement he brokered includes the ability for a governor to temporarily stop future increases in the minimum wage during a recession, sources said.
The agreement, if passed, would replace a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.
The initiative qualified for the ballot last week, even as its sponsor, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, continued to negotiate on a compromise.
The Service Employees International Union’s state council, California’s largest labor union, has been gathering signatures for its own minimum wage increase, and labor advocates feared competing proposals could hurt the chances of either initiative passing.
Steve Trossman, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, said that “if something passes and is signed by the governor, we will look at it and our executive board will decide what to do with our initiative.”
The agreement, if passed, will likely avoid an expensive campaign on the fall ballot, with supporters having raised more than $4.7 million for the effort so far.