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About 3.2 million residents, mostly women, could see a pay raise between now and 2021 if a proposed ballot measure passes.
The mayors of San Francisco and Oakland have committed themselves to leading a union-funded push for a $15-an-hour minimum wage by 2021 across all of California.
A petitioned measure, if it makes the Nov. 8 ballot and is passed, would raise the state minimum wage—set to go from $9 to $10 an hour on Jan. 1—to $11 an hour in 2017 and $1 every subsequent year to keep up with cost of living.
An August survey by The Field Poll found 68 percent of voters favor such a measure, which is nearing the 366,000 signatures it needs to make the statewide ballot.
“There is a sense of fairness to this,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on Tuesday while meeting with employees at a local business, according to The Sacramento Bee. “In a state that is now surging in prosperity, one of the most innovative states not only in the United States, but perhaps all over the world ... to allow people to struggle with that kind of wage, I think is totally unfair.”
Both San Francisco and Oakland raised their minimum wage to $12.25 an hour at the ballot box last November, which Lee said proved the move “is good for small business.”
Full-time employees making the state’s current minimum wage earn less than $19,000 a year, and the national minimum wage is even lower than California’s at $7.25 an hour. Estimates project 3.2 million Californians, mostly women, would see a raise if the ballot measure is passed.
The initiative permits cities to set higher local minimum wages at their discretion.
Earlier this year, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti approved a $6 minimum wage increase to $15 an hour by 2020—making the city the largest to do so.
University of California President Janet Napolitano announced in July the minimum wage for workers in the school system—the state’s third-largest employer next to the federal and state governments—would be raised to $15 an hour over the next three years and $13 an hour starting this October.
The statewide initiative is supported by both the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
“As California grows and thrives, we must make sure the prosperity is shared by everyone,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in an announcement. “A gradual, uniform wage increase for the lowest-paid workers across our state is fiscally and morally responsible.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.