By Sharon Bernstein
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept 12 Minimum wage workers
in California would earn $10 an hour by 2016 under a bill passed
by the legislature on Thursday, making the state likely to
become the first in the nation to commit to such a high rate.
The bill, which Governor Jerry Brown said he will sign,
would increase the minimum wage for hourly workers in the most
populous U.S. state from the current rate of $8 an hour to $9 in
July 2014, and to $10 by January 2016.
"The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs,"
Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement. "This legislation is
overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh
Brown, protective of the state's tenuous economic recovery,
had initially opposed the bill but agreed to support it on
Wednesday after leaders of both houses of the Democratic-led
state legislature agreed to postpone the effective date of the
raise until 2016.
The measure won support from Democrats, passing the Senate
on a vote of 26-11 and the Assembly on a vote of 51-25. But it
was opposed by many Republicans who said it would hurt small
businesses and ultimately cost some low-wage workers their jobs.
"The impact of this is not on huge employers," said
Republican Senator Jim Nielsen, who represents much of the far
northern part of the state near the Oregon border. "It is on the
smaller employer, the mom and pop operation."
To get the bill passed, leaders in the more conservative
state Assembly had to win over business-friendly Democrats who
were initially skeptical.
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, a Democrat who represents the Los
Angeles suburb of Torrance, said he voted against the bill when
it was initially introduced. But after it was amended to include
a later, and more specific, date for the rise to $10 per hour,
he was more comfortable with it.
"This time I'm supporting this bill because it is a
compromise," Muratsuchi said. "It gives employers predictability
to plan for the higher labor costs."
No state currently pays $10 per hour to minimum wage
workers, and that rate is well above the federal minimum wage of
$7.25 an hour. The current highest state minimum wage is $9.19
in Washington state.
California is among a number of states looking to increase
minimum wages to at least $10 an hour, according to the National
Employment Law Project.
In Washington state, the minimum hourly wage for some
workers could rise to above $10 an hour by 2016, because it is
set to increase with certain indicators of inflation.
The U.S. enacted its first minimum wage in 1938, during the
last years of the Great Depression. Today, debate continues on
whether government should mandate higher pay for low-wage
In Washington state on Wednesday, an appeals court panel
cleared the way for a ballot initiative proposing that pay for
hospitality and transportation workers at Seattle-Tacoma
International Airport and at businesses associated with it start
at $15 an hour.