[March 22, 2016] SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The national movement to raise low-wage workers’ income took its biggest step forward today when a ballot initiative to gradually increase California’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021 officially qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot.
If approved by voters, California would become the largest state to improve the standard of living for low-wage workers, benefitting 3.3 million men and women in California, and help set the stage for a higher minimum wage across the country.
“California has often been the incubator of ideas and policies that spread across the country – this initiative fits that mold and will make our state the leader in the fight against income inequality,” said California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The California Secretary of State’s office certified that initiative organizers had collected the necessary 402,468 signatures to be immediately placed on the ballot.
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 be adjusted each year to keep pace with the cost of living. California’s minimum wage is currently $10 an hour, which amounts to less than $21,000 a year for a full-time worker.
“All four of my employees will get a raise under this ballot initiative and that’s good for them and my bottom line,” said Teresa Gomez, owner of Jensen Services, a tax preparation company in Fresno. “I’ve found that when my employees earn more, they do a better job, they stick around longer and that improves customer satisfaction.”
Advocates of the ballot initiative say it will improve the lives of millions, generate more income tax revenue for state and local government to spend on schools, roads and parks, reduce government spending needed to aid the poor, and will grow the economy as the higher wages are spent in workers’ communities.
“Every day is a struggle providing for me and my daughter on the little I earn, but with a raise I’ll be able to stretch my income a little more and be able to pay for my daughter’s soccer fees and jersey,” said Maria Sandoval, a gas station attendant from Los Angeles who earns $10 an hour. “No one can survive on the current minimum wage, and families shouldn’t have to double up in an apartment – like I do – just to get by.”
The initiative has been endorsed by 300 community organizations, labor unions, faith leaders, small business owners and elected officials, including U.S. Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Controller Betty Yee, 28 state legislators and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who serve as co-chairs of the initiative campaign.
According to a Field Poll from last year, 68 percent of registered California voters support the initiative.