Supporters of a $15 per hour minimum wage rally outside the state Capitol in Sacramento on March 31, 2016.  Katie Orr/KQED
Supporters of a $15 per hour minimum wage rally outside the state Capitol in Sacramento on March 31, 2016.  (Katie Orr/KQED)

Legislature Approves $15 Minimum Wage, Brown Says He'll Sign It

Legislature Approves $15 Minimum Wage, Brown Says He'll Sign It

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Gov. Jerry Brown says he'll travel to Los Angeles next week to sign a bill that will gradually increase California's minimum wage to $15 per hour. The Legislature approved the measure today.

On Monday Brown announced he'd reached a deal with labor unions to increase the wage over over the next seven years. The fast timeline caused some lawmakers from both parties to question why the process was so rushed. But Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez says the conversation has been going on for much longer.

“For those who complain about process and hurry, I want to remind you if you haven’t been talking about the minimum wage in your district then you probably haven’t been talking," she says. "Because this fight for 15 has been going on at least for four years.”

Business groups have criticized the plan for not taking a regional approach to the minimum wage. Republican Assemblyman David Hadley agrees. He says what works on the coast may not work in the Central Valley.

“I think those members of this chamber who live in high-wage, affluent parts of coastal California who are prepared to throw an entire region of this state under the bus, under some misguided notion of social justice, are making a serious policy mistake," he says.


But Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon says the bill will improve the lives of tens of thousands of families.

“We are talking about those who do, on a daily basis that which our society asks them to do, which is to work," he says. "Members, for me the bottom line is if you work full time, your family shouldn’t live in poverty.”

A study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center finds the higher wage will affect 5.6 million low-wage workers.

Outside the Capitol, union members celebrated the victory. Steve Smith, with the California Labor Federation, called it a historic day.

"We think this wave is going to go well beyond the state of California," Smith says. "New York is also looking at a $15 minimum wage."

Labor groups who were pursuing an increase to the minimum wage through the November ballot have indicated they'll drop their efforts once Brown signs the bill.

According to the bill, for any employer with 26 or more employees, the minimum wage shall increase as follows:

  • Jan. 1, 2017 - Dec. 31, 2017: $10.50 per hour
  • Jan. 1, 2018 - Dec. 31, 2018: $11 per hour
  • Jan. 1, 2019 - Dec. 31, 2019: $12 per hour
  • Jan. 1, 2020 - Dec. 31, 2020: $13 per hour
  • Jan. 1, 2021 - Dec. 31, 2021: $14 per hour
  • Jan. 1, 2022: $15 per hour

Employers with 25 or fewer employees will be subject to the same wage increase schedule, only delayed by one year. For them, the initial bump to $10.50 will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.