Nicole Rice

First minimum wage initiative cleared for ballot

By Nicole Rice, Policy Director, Government Relations

Capitol Update, March 25, 2016

Election officials have announced that the first of two proposals to increase the State’s minimum wage to $15 an hour has qualified for the November General Election ballot, having garnered the 400,000-plus signatures needed to place the measure before the voters.

Dubbed the Fair Wage Act of 2016, the proposal would boost the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour over a five-year period, beginning in 2017, then adjust it annually based on the rate of inflation.  It is backed by SEIU United Healthcare Workers West and the Lift Up California campaign.

A second measure vying for a place on the same ballot offers a more aggressive approach. Supported by SEIU State Council, a faction arm of the same organization, this proposal would raise the wage one year earlier and add three more paid sick days.  It is still in the signature-gathering phase and proponents have until July 5, 2016 to turn in their requisite number, according to the Secretary of State’s website, although a much sooner completion date is expected.

If either or both of these initiatives qualify, the presence of an additional measure could complicate efforts to consolidate support for raising the wage.

The CMTA Board of Directors has voted to oppose any minimum wage increase initiative headed for the ballot, especially a proposal that contains either an expansion of paid sick leave or automatic annual adjustments.

With the prospect of crowding the ballot with two competing statewide initiatives, and possibly several other local ordinances, pressure builds for either the Legislature and/or the Governor to weigh in and broker a solution with opposing interests that could bring conformity and resolve this fight at least for the near future.

But the clock is ticking and policy makers only have until June 30 to decide, which is the deadline for the list of November ballot propositions to be officially certified.

Recent legislative attempts to raise the wage beyond the deal reached on the recent $10 an hour increase have failed, with the latest vehicle, SB 3 (Leno – San Francisco), currently stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  The Governor has also displayed some reluctance to inflate the wage any higher amidst concerns about the long-term fiscal health of the State’s budget and, to a lesser extent, the overall economy.

However, 28 legislators and the anticipated gubernatorial candidate Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom have pledged their support for the effort.

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