California Governor Jerry Brown, leaders of the state legislature, and union leaders on March 28 announced an agreement that when enacted and signed by Gov. Brown will raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.
The agreement is the biggest success so far for the Fight for $15 movement that started three years ago with strikes by fast food and other under paid workers.
“Make no mistake,” reads a posting of the Fight for $15 Facebook page. “Workers striking, protesting, fighting back, and taking part in the #FightFor15 are the reason that California agreed to a $15 minimum.”
The Fight for $15 movement started in 2012 in New York when after Thanksgiving, 200 fast food workers went on strike for minimum wage of $15 an hour.
Over the next three years, the movement spread to the Midwest and West Coast as thousands of under paid workers went on coordinated one-day strikes, held rallies and demonstrations, and took other street actions to make their voices heard.
In California, these street actions led to political organizing that succeeded in getting a $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance passed in several California cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Labor unions played a key role in these local political organizing campaigns.
In 2015, unions set their sights on making $15 an hour the statewide minimum wage.
SEIU United Healthcare Workers West collected 600,000 on a referendum petition, and in March, the California Secretary of State certified the union’s initiative for a place on the November ballot.
SEIU California was still in the process of collecting signatures on its petition when Governor Brown announced the historic agreement.
Gov. Brown did not always support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but the street actions and the political organizing campaigns made the Fight for $15 a popular issue.
A poll conducted in 2015 found that 68 percent of those surveyed supported making the California minimum wage $15 an hour.
The agreement announced by Gov. Brown will raise the current state minimum wage of $10 an hour to $11 an hour in 2017. In 2018, there will be a $0.50 increase. Then the minimum wage will increase by $1 a year until 2021. In 2022 it becomes $15 an hour. After 2022, minimum wage increases will be tied to increases in the cost of living.
Business with 25 or fewer employees will have an extra year to begin paying at least $15 an hour.
The agreement also makes home health care workers eligible for paid sick leave. California has a state law that requires employers to provide employees with three paid sick days a year, but home health care workers had been excluded from this benefit.
The agreement between Gov. Brown and labor is only the first step toward passing a new minimum wage law.
The language in the agreement needs to be put in a bill and passed by both houses of the California legislature.
That could be accomplished by adding the agreement’s language to a bill that has already been introduced in the legislature.
That could happen within a week.
Leaders of both houses of the legislature have both signed off on the agreement, which make its passage easier.
There is a chance that business interest could try to derail the bill, but Gov. Brown warned them that doing so would be bad for business.
SEIU California estimates that one-third of California’s workers will receive wage increases because of the new minimum wage law.
“Combined with workers who are already on a path to $15 because workers fought to achieve $15 minimum wages in Los Angeles and San Francisco, more than 6.5 million workers will have won a path out of poverty with a $15 wage,” reads a statement released by SEIU California about the agreement.
Guadalupe Salazar, a McDonald’s worker active in the National Organizing Committee of Fight for $15 said that the success in California shows what can happen when workers unite and fight together.
“When workers in New York City started this movement in 2012, nobody gave them a shot, and when we joined in California a few months later, people said we had no chance,” said Salazar. “But today, millions of Californians secured life-changing raises that will lift our families out of poverty. And more victories are on the way across the country. Our movement has unstoppable momentum. When workers join together and speak out, real change results.”