Brown, Unions Announce Deal on $15 Minimum Wage

Low-wage workers and supporters protest for a $15 minimum wage last November in New York, as part of what organizers called a National Day of Action. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Gov. Jerry Brown today formally announced a deal with labor unions to increase California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. Businesses with 25 or fewer employees would get an extra year to comply.

"This bill is doable," Brown said. "It’s helping workers. I think it will work in all parts of the state under all conditions.”

Under the deal, wage increases could be suspended in poor economic conditions. Brown says that’s one of the reasons he supports it. He said this agreement is more flexible than several ballot initiatives union groups are trying to get on the November ballot.

“I think it would be a very few business people who would lobby against this bill," he said, "because then they just would be cutting their own throat."

Laphonza Butler is president of Service Employees International Union Local 2015, which represents nursing home and home health care providers in California. She says the larger service workers union could abandon its ballot initiative efforts.

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"SEIU State Council is prepared to pull our measure from gathering signatures with the passage of this bill," she said.

While Brown was joined at the announcement by the leader of the state Senate, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon was not there. Rendon said he wanted to first brief the Assembly Democratic Caucus. He later told reporters there does seem to be "significant support" for the agreement thus far among caucus members.

But he said there are "questions about the indexing, some questions about timing, about when we would take this up, some questions about whether or not there would be exemptions for nonprofit organizations."

It's not clear whether more moderate Democrats will support the deal. A spokesman acknowledged that a majority in the Assembly do not yet support it. Rendon says he personally does, though he wishes the deal were more aggressive.

The vehicle for moving the agreement forward will be an amended version of SB-3, Sen. Mark Leno's bill to raise the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2017. SB-3 stalled in the Assembly last year.

Rendon's office says that bill will be amended to reflect today's announced agreement and that it will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Wednesday.