News Economic Justice

California’s $15 Minimum Wage Initiative Is Likely Headed to Voters

Nicole Knight

The voter measure would hike the statewide minimum wage by a dollar on January 1 of every year from 2017 to 2021.

A California initiative calling for a $15 minimum wage by 2021 is likely headed to state voters in November after gathering more than enough signatures to qualify.

The voter measure would hike the statewide minimum wage by a dollar on January 1 of every year from 2017 to 2021. Backers told Rewire they have gathered 619,000 signatures, far surpassing the 365,880 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

California’s statewide minimum wage stands at $10, making it one of the nation’s highest and second only the District of Columbia, which mandates a $10.50 minimum. On January 1, California’s minimum wage rose from $9 per hour, as required by a 2013 law.

Advocates for the wage hike said the signatures will be filed this month with county election officials, who must then verify the signatures.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:


The voter initiative would lift the wages of roughly four million employees, or one-quarter of workers in the Golden State who make less than $13 per hour, a recent analysis by the state legislative analyst indicates. The pay hike would apply to all employers, regardless of size, by 2021, and it includes adjustments for inflation beginning in 2022.

Supporters say raising the minimum wage helps combat poverty, but critics representing business interests point to the potential impact of higher labor costs and shrinking profits.

A recent analysis by the California Legislative Analysis’s Office indicates that the economic effect of the statewide minimum wage hike is unclear, as other wage hikes affected a smaller share of the workforce and were not indexed to inflation.

The measure appears to enjoy the support of state voters. A Field Poll of 1,555 registered voters conducted in the summer of 2015 indicated that 68 percent favored increasing the minimum wage by $1 annually over five years, as the Sacramento Bee reported.

“What we’ve seen around the country is it’s very difficult for state legislatures to raise the minimum wage to a living wage,” said spokesman Steve Trossman of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, a union of 85,000 hospital workers in California that sponsored the measure. “We strongly believe this is long overdue.”

Trossman told Rewire that Californians cannot support a family on today’s minimum wage, which amounts to $20,800 annually for full-time workers. He said he expects the initiative to qualify for the ballot by the end of next month.

Demands for better pay made headlines last year when thousands of fast-food employees marched in 270 cities in support of pay hikes and unionization in the Fight for $15 campaign.

More than 200 bills in 2015 called for increases to state or federal minimum wage, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fourteen states began 2016 with a higher minimum wage, although the federal minimum wage remains $7.25 per hour.

In May 2015, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to lift the minimum wage in the city to $10.50 an hour by July 2016. Lawmakers in San Francisco and Seattle have also passed a $15 hourly wage increase. New York’s governor pushed through a $15 minimum wage for state workers that takes effect at the end of 2018.

A study by the Economic Roundtable found that an increased wage would be exceedingly positive for Los Angeles.

“We found that a phased-in increase to $15.25 by 2019 will put $5.9 billion more into the pockets of 723,000 working people, which will generate $6.4 billion in increased sales,” wrote Yvonne Yen Liu, one of the group’s researchers.

“That means that every dollar increase in the minimum wage generates $1.12 in economic stimulus,” Yen Liu wrote. “Businesses will hire more in response to the greater demand, creating 46,400 new jobs.”

News Law and Policy

California Lawmakers Take Action Against Rampant Wage Theft

Nicole Knight

A survey of people who work for low wages found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the "wage theft capital of the country."

Los Angeles has earned the distinction as the country’s wage theft capital, but a new California law is tackling the rampant problem of wage theft with new enforcement tools.

The law, SB 1342, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown (D), gives city and county authorities subpoena powers when investigating wage violations. Until now, the state Division of Labor Standards Enforcement was the primary agency charged with investigating wage theft cases.

State Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) authored the legislation to “ensure that our low-wage workers, who already face many challenges, receive the pay that they have earned,” Mendoza wrote in an Orange County Breeze op-ed.

Wage theft is the illegal practice of failing to pay overtime and minimum wages, denying lunch breaks, or forcing employees to work off the clock. A survey of people who work for low wages by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that wage theft robbed workers of $26.2 million each week in Los Angeles, making the locale the “wage theft capital of the country.”

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:


Some 654,914 workers in L.A. County are subjected to at least one pay-based violation in any given week, researchers noted.

Most people who work low-wage jobs in L.A. were born outside the United States, and the majority are Latino (73.4 percent), Asian (17.9 percent), or Black (6.3 percent), researchers found.

Wage theft is not only illegal, it contributes to food insecurity and housing instability in low-income families, Mendoza noted.

“This bill protects hard-working Californians by clarifying the ability of cities and counties to investigate non-compliance with local wage laws,” Mendoza said.

A legislative analysis of SB 1342 cited research noting that minimum wage violations are rampant in industries such as garment manufacturing, domestic service, building services, and department stores, where wages are low.

The measure comes as states and cities are increasing minimum wages as lawmakers in Congress have refused to consider raising the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

Brown in April signed a law lifting the statewide minimum pay rate to $15 per hour by 2022. More than a dozen cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, have proposed or enacted $15 minimum wage rates, according to the National Employment Law Project.

News Economic Justice

Fight for $15 Campaign to Intensify This Fall

Michelle D. Anderson

Fight for $15, which contends that 64 million Americans work for less than a living wage, committed to engage in rallies at state capitols nationwide on September 12.

U.S. presidential candidates and their supporters will encounter sustained protests from supporters of the Fight for $15 movement and labor unions during this fall’s presidential and vice presidential debates.

Thousands of Americans who work for low wages on Saturday joined forces during the first-ever Fight for $15 convention in Richmond, Virginia, and signed the Richmond Resolution, a vow to intensify the fight for a living wage.

The Richmond Resolution vows that its signees will hold elected officials accountable on Election Day and every day thereafter.

“The work we do generates billions of dollars in profits and makes our country stronger. But we are paid so little that far too many of us are living on the edge and cannot afford our basic needs, trapping us in poverty,” the resolution reads.

Appreciate our work?

Vote now! And help Rewire earn a bigger grant from CREDO:


The name of the two-page document not only acknowledges the place where it originated, but the former capitol of the Confederacy. Organizers said they convened in Richmond to highlight racist policies that still hold back families of color in 2016.

Fight for $15, which contends that 64 million Americans work for less than a living wage, committed to engage in rallies at state capitols nationwide on September 12. Those rallies, which will be part of the Moral Revival Movement for a National Day of Action, will call on lawmakers to “advance moral policies like a living wage, voting rights and criminal justice reform,” Fight for $15 said.

“This year, underpaid Americans will show elected leaders in every state in America that they are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored and will not be denied,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union, a supporter of Fight for $15.

The Rev. William Barber II, an architect of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina and the founder of the social justice group Repairers of the Breach, said in a statement that advancement has always been the result of unity.

“Every step forward in our nation’s history—every stride toward a more perfect union—has been the result of people coming together, pushed by a moral movement towards higher ground,” Barber said. “It took us 400 years from slavery to the present to reach $7.25, but that was far too long, and we can’t wait. We have to stand together and fight together now for $15 and union rights.”

The Richmond Resolution vows to support legislative actions to raise the minimum wage in Alabama and other states that were once part of the Confederacy.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) Action Fund, a project of The Advocacy Fund that researches issues affecting people who are unemployed or work for low wages, this month highlighted how the fight for a living wage has permeated U.S. political races.

NELP Action said U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, for example, is “edging out” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) by focusing her campaign on boosting the minimum wage and other economic issues that would help people who work low-paying jobs.

Likewise, former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold—an outspoken advocate for higher wages—continues to lead incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) in the polls. Feingold leads Johnson by 11.3 points, according to polling data from Real Clear Politics.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities fellow Jared Bernstein noted in the Washington Post that Seattle’s minimum wage increase has helped grow the city’s economy. That follows warnings from business lobbies across the country that increasing the minimum wage would devastate local economies.

Bernstein cited a study published by the Seattle Minimum Wage Study Team at the University of Washington showing that the city’s minimum wage ordinance has effectively raised the wages of low-income workers by “seven percentage points more than might otherwise have occurred.”


Vote for Rewire and Help Us Earn Money

Rewire is in the running for a CREDO Mobile grant. More votes for Rewire means more CREDO grant money to support our work. Please take a few seconds to help us out!


Thank you for supporting our work!