Kathleen Miles is the executive editor of Noema Magazine. She can be reached on Twitter at @mileskathleen.
Gov. Jerry Brown and the leaders of the California state Legislature announced strong support Wednesday for a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour.
“The minimum wage has not kept pace with rising costs,” Brown said in a statement. “This legislation is overdue and will help families that are struggling in this harsh economy.”
Assemblyman Luis Alejo’s (D-Salinas) bill, AB 10, would raise the minimum wage in California from $8.00 an hour to $10.00 an hour. The bill passed the state Assembly in May and is expected to be voted on in the Senate this week.
UPDATE: Both houses passed the minimum wage increase, and Gov. Brown signed it into law.
Alejo introduced similar bills in 2011 and 2012 that both died because of opposition by Republican members and business lobbyists, who called the proposal a “job killer.”
Alejo’s chief of staff, Marva Diaz, told The Huffington Post that this bill is stronger because the two leaders of the Legislature have been added as co-authors: Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles).
Perez disputed the claim that raising the minimum wage would reduce jobs. “The real winner here is the economy. A $10 hour minimum wage boosts earnings by $4,000 a year and will put $2.6 billion dollars back into the hands of workers,” Pérez said in a statement. “This is money that will be spent at grocery stores, on school supplies and invested in education, and that ultimately strengthens the recovery and ensures California’s job market continues growing faster than the rest of the nation.”
California’s minimum wage is among the highest in the country, although it hasn’t been raised since 2008. AB 10 would raise the minimum wage in two separate one-dollar increments: from $8 per hour today to $9 per hour, effective July 1, 2014, and from $9 per hour to $10 per hour, effective Jan. 1, 2016.
In his State of the Union address in February, President Barack Obama called for the national minimum wage to be raised to $9 an hour. The next month, House Republicans voted unanimously against a bill by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next two years.
According to a study by the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would pull more than half of the nation’s working poor out of poverty.