California voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative on Tuesday that raises the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour, the state’s first increase in decades.
Supporters say the increase will help low-wage workers, who are already struggling financially, and create a better environment for the future.
“This is not about raising the wage.
This is about creating a fairer, more equal, and safer California,” said former Assemblyman Steve Barnes, a Democrat.
“And we can do it by raising the minimum.”
The ballot measure passed by a wide margin, with 55 percent of registered voters in favor, while 47 percent opposed.
The measure also requires that businesses pay workers a minimum wage of $15 per hour.
Supporters argue that the increase would give businesses a competitive edge in the marketplace and help the state maintain its economic growth.
A new law passed last month will raise the minimum to $14.50 an hour by 2020, and it will also mandate that businesses provide workers with at least a $15 minimum wage by 2020.
California has the third-highest minimum wage in the country, at $8.10.
The law also establishes a state-wide minimum wage hike of $1.75 by 2021.
Supporters of the wage increase say the additional money would go to help pay for additional programs, such as affordable housing, childcare, paid sick leave and community college.
Some critics of the law, including former state Sen. Kevin de Leon, R-Lodi, argue that it will harm businesses and hurt consumers.
Supporters also point out that the state has not increased its minimum wage since 2008.
They argue that increasing the wage will create jobs and boost the economy, but that it would be a double-edged sword because it could also increase costs for businesses.
“What this bill will do is help low income Californians,” said Barnes.
“But what it’s also going to do is hurt consumers.”
Barnes said that he and other Democratic lawmakers are also considering a ballot measure that would increase the minimum wages in a number of states.
In New York, a $10 minimum wage is already the highest in the nation.
The state has passed a $13 minimum wage, which was approved by the state Senate in March.
California’s proposed increase to $10 is similar to New York’s law, which passed the Assembly in June.
California is one of the few states that does not have a minimum hourly wage, and the state also has no minimum wage at all for tipped workers.
“It’s very important to recognize that minimum wage laws have never been enforced in California, because there’s no enforcement,” said Steve Barnese, the executive director of California’s Workers Compensation Lawyer’s Alliance.
“In the last two years, there have been no reports of wage theft at the tipped-worker level in California.”
The California minimum wage was set at $7 in 1968, and its highest point in the U.S. was $10.50 in 1978.
It has since been raised by an average of 2.5 percent each year.
The minimum wage has also been increased in many other states, including Maine, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and Washington.
Supporters in California also argue that raising the state minimum wage will help lower-income workers.
Barnes also said that the measure will not create a single-digit job loss, noting that the economy is expected to grow by about 1 percent in 2020.
Barnese said that California’s unemployment rate is currently 4.4 percent, which is below the national average of 7.1 percent.
The California economy added a total of 1.5 million jobs in the first three months of 2019, according to the California Department of Employment Development.