In just a few minutes, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to announce at a news conference a plan to raise California's minimum wage to $15 an hour — the highest in the nation — by 2022.
Not even inked, not even past the state Legislature — where moderate Democrats and Republicans both from places like the manual labor-reliant Central Valley must be brought on board — the deal is already being hailed by liberals and labor leaders as a major victory.
Though places like San Francisco will see a $15 minimum wage sooner, by 2018 — and an even higher wage after that, based on the consumer price index — the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for six years. And raising the minimum wage has been a sticking point on the campaign trail for Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — the latter of whom has called for a $15 federal minimum wage by 2020.
All in all, a good day for the worker — that is, if the $15 plan moves forward at all. And even if it does, there's a loophole for Brown or for his successor to use should California's economy falter.
[jump] Prior to the deal reached over the weekend, the decision to raise the wage to $15 was to be decided by voters. Unions, primarily the Service Employees International Union (who represent low-wage earners in food service, custodial, and other low-skill occupations) had qualified a ballot initiative for November. Having a legislative solution allows Brown to avoid a political fight with the unions.
Details of Brown's deal are forthcoming, but it has a provision that allows the governor to “opt-out” if the economy is deemed not strong enough to support better-paid lowest-wage earners, according to Reuters.
So: the $15 plan is not approved, and even if it is, the governor can choose to bow to pressure from employers, especially ones that rely on cheap labor, to opt out. Maybe the ballot is the better option after all.