Minimum wage increases

By Sheri Williams

California raised its minimum wage to $12 an hour on Jan. 1, another step in a hard-won victory by the union-backed Fight for $15 campaign.

Companies with more than 26 employees now must pay the $12 an hour wage, while those employing fewer must pay $11, according to a state law signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016.

“No one should work full time and still live in poverty,” said SCLC executive director Fabrizio Sasso. “This increase is an important step, but working families still need more, especially faced with high housing costs.”

The 2016 law was pushed by the Fight for $15 campaign and unions including SEIU as part of a national effort to raise wages for working people, who often cannot pay for basic necessities even while working full time.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

The new California wage is the third increase in a five-year plan to get to $15 an hour by 2022.

“Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way,” said Brown when he signed the law, according to media.

Some California cities, though not Sacramento, already have reached that $15 benchmark. Among them are Berkeley, San Francisco and San Diego.

During the Fight for $15 campaign, thousands of underpaid workers across California mobilized in a historic show of solidarity for higher wages, social justice and equality in cities from San Diego to Sacramento.

Striking workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s joined home care, childcare, and other low-wage workers at massive rallies at City Halls and on city streets for months. Nationally, thousands of protests took place.

Art Pulaski, head of the California Labor Federation, said during the campaign, “This is a movement now. Led by working people who want a living wage. Working people who demand respect on the job. Working people who won’t settle for anything less than $15 and a union.”

More than 60 million Americans are paid less than $15/hr. Forty-two percent of workers in America are paid less than $15, including 48 percent of women, 54 percent of African Americans, and 60 percent of Latinos. There are 3.2 million workers in California paid less than $15/hr.