Nicole Rice

Dueling Minimum Wage Proposals

By Nicole Rice, Policy Director, Government Relations

Capitol Update, Nov. 6, 2015

The state’s largest labor union has announced the filing of a second minimum wage initiative, setting up a ballot rivalry between two factions of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that could ultimately risk the success of both proposals.

The new initiative, sponsored by SEIU State Council, is broader than the initial measure proposed by SEIU-UHW, the healthcare worker arm of the union. It not only increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but doubles the amount of sick leave mandated under law and expands the benefit to home healthcare workers who are not currently covered.

Tentatively titled, “Raise California’s Wage and Paid Sick Days Act of 2016,” proponents seek to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 (one year earlier than the originally-filed measure) and give employers with 25 or less employees one additional year to comply. Any future increases would still be tied to inflation.

California’s minimum wage rose to $9 an hour on July 1, 2014, due to legislation signed by Governor Brown in 2013, and is scheduled for a final increase to $10 an hour this January 1, 2016. However, a bill introduced earlier this year by Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Connie Leyva (D-Chino) pledges another series of incremental increases to $13 an hour by July 2017 with annual inflation adjustments to follow beginning January 1, 2019. SB 3  was stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee but the Senators have vowed to continue to push the issue when the Legislature returns in January.

Several local jurisdictions have also approved minimum wage increases including the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Jose, along with San Francisco and Los Angeles counties.

Language for the new initiative was submitted to the Attorney General this Tuesday for review and summary.  Proponents will need 365,880 signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot and anticipate starting the signature gathering process this January. Backers of the preceding measure have until January 27, 2016 to collect their signatures but report that they have already exceeded the number needed to qualify their proposal.

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