A ballot initiative that would raise the state minimum wage to $18 an hour by 2026 was filed with the Attorney General’s office during the weekend, paving the way to be voted on as soon as the November 2022 election.
Currently in California, the minimum wage is $14 an hour for employers with 26 employees or more and $13 an hour for businesses with 25 employees and under. In 2022, wages are to go up a dollar more in both categories respectfully, with a final dollar boost to smaller businesses in 2023, reaching $15 across the board. Minimum wage has seen a steady year by year rise since 2017 from $10 an hour following former Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of AB 10 in 2016.
Despite the continued rise, minimum wage advocates have been pushing for higher wages past $15. Los Angeles investor and activist Joe Sanberg has been among the most prominent and is one of the main forces behind the Living Wage Act of 2022. Under the proposed ballot initiative, the minimum wage would continue to rise in California past 2023 into 2026, ending at $18 an hour for all businesses.
Sanberg has said that, due to COVID-19 and workers facing financial insecurity due to rising costs and high rent prices, a higher minimum wage is needed. Sanberg even said to the press on Monday that the minimum wage should actually be closer to $24 an hour with worker productivity growth, but settled on $18.
“If you work full time, you should be able to live with full financial security, and that’s not the case in California,” said Sanberg on Monday. “We were a leader in pushing for a $15 minimum wage, but now we have to move the ball forward and farther. It’s overdue for $18.”
“The fact that the state base pay is one year away from $15 an hour doesn’t mean it’s the right minimum wage. The job will be done when everyone who works full time can afford life’s basic needs.”
A possible $18 minimum wage by 2026 in CA
Many business and franchise groups have balked at setting such a high minimum wage in California, especially with many companies, such as Tesla, Disney, and Oracle moving either their headquarters or entire divisions out of state in the past year.
“Businesses in California are already feeling the pinch from these higher minimum wages,” said Sarah Braun, a Southern Californian investor and businesswoman who has been tracking the effects of minimum wages across the state since 2017. “It’s caused many to raise their prices, and those aren’t exactly being helped by all the current supply-line issues. So, yes, minimum wages have gone up but businesses have had to hire fewer people as a result, or automate more.”
“And California is already desperate to keep businesses from leaving. Telling them that minimum wages are going up is not going to help that and lead to an even worse business climate here if you can believe that is possible.”
“California is also currently facing job shortages everywhere, so if those places want people, they’ll pay more. That means wages will go up organically anyway with the demand there. With people changing jobs so much now too with the Great Resignation, people are also taking better paying jobs.”
“In a sense, this is already happening. Just trust the market, and you’ll see wages keep up with demand. Doing it like this, well, it will hurt those businesses that can’t keep up, usually mom and pop ones or newer ones that may not be able to compete right out of the gate, $18, that will jut squeeze these businesses more.”
The $18 minimum wage measure will now go through signature collection. If enough signatures are gained it will be on the ballot in November of 2022.
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