SEIU-UHW Hits 500K Signatures to Qualify Minimum Wage Initiative

[Nov. 9, 2015] OAKLAND, Calif. – On the eve of a national day of action to raise the minimum wage to $15, healthcare workers in California announced they have collected 500,000 signatures to do just that through a statewide initiative that would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021.

“Public support for this initiative is overwhelming because people know you simply can’t live in California on $19,000 a year, and they want to create a path to a better life for all low-wage workers and their families,” said Martha Alvarez, a certified nursing assistant and member of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, which is sponsoring the measure. “We will be filing signatures soon and we are 100 percent confident that California voters will have a chance in November 2016 to lift up the lives of more than three million low-wage workers.”

Last month, the initiative’s supporters surpassed the minimum 366,000 signatures required to qualify the initiative, and are working toward gathering an additional 235,000 to create a cushion that guarantees the initiative will qualify for the November 2016 ballot. Signature collection began Aug. 10, and all petitions must be submitted to the California Secretary of State’s office before Jan. 27, 2016.

The initiative has several prominent endorsements, including those of California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Controller Betty Yee, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and eight California state legislators: Sens. Marty Block (D-San Diego) and Isadore Hall (D-Compton); and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), David Chiu (D-San Francisco), Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Shirley Weber (D-San Diego)and Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara). In addition, more than 100 labor and community organizations from across the state support the measure.

The Fair Wage Act of 2016 would raise California’s minimum wage to $11 in 2017 and then gradually increase it a dollar a year until it reaches $15 in 2021. Once the minimum wage reaches $15, it will automatically go up to match any increases in the cost of living. California’s minimum wage is currently $9 an hour and is set to rise to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.

According to a recent Field Poll, 68 percent of registered California voters support the initiative. More than 100 community organizations and businesses have endorsed the measure.

Here are some facts about the minimum wage in California:

  • A full-time worker making the minimum wage in California earns less than $19,000 a year;
  • 3 million Californians earn less than $15 an hour;
  • 8 million people in California earn the minimum wage, including 200,000 who are older than 55;
  • More than half of minimum wage workers in California are women;
  • 95 percent of low-wage workers in California are adults who are at least 20-years-old, and half are over 30.
  • More than two million children live in poverty in California.

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Paid for by Lift Up California, Sponsored by Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West, A Coalition of Non-Profit and Labor Organizations. Major funding by The Fairness Project and Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West.

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