California Cities Could Suspend Fight For $15


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California has seen many of its cities raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but cities that haven’t yet implemented the hike may want to wait and see how a statewide initiative fares in November, according to Sunday reports.

California is currently tied with Massachusetts at $10.00 an hour for the highest state-level minimum wage. Several cities within California, however, have enacted their own $15 minimum wage. Cities that are considering the wage hike may want to wait and see how two competing union-backed minimum wage proposals fare on the November ballot.

“[It] is pretty much going to preoccupy all elements of labor for months, I would assume,” Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs Executive Director Raphael Sonenshein told the Los Angeles Times. “[Cities] may decide it’s better to avoid a difficult vote.”

“There’s a lot of logic for something of a pause,” Sonenshein added. The prediction has been echoed by Los Angeles Labor Leader Rusty Hicks who has been on the front lines of several city-level initiatives. He attracted controversy when he pushed for an exemption for unionized workplaces last year.

Seattle was the first to pass a $15 minimum wage in June 2014, but the policy quickly jumped the border into California — Los Angeles led the way on the list of cities that saw the benefit of such a high wage floor. Each of the local ordinances were designed to phase in overtime to help mitigate economic stress.

California is among a handful of states fighting to be the first with a $15 minimum wage. Massachusetts and New Jersey have already taken steps toward the increase, but New York has made the most headway. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo already unilaterally enacted a few industry specific increases and introduced a statewide measure this past fall.

The $15 minimum wage has been one of the most popular workplace issues of the last year. The policy has been highly praised by Democrats and pushed by union-backed groups like Fight for $15. Those who support the $15 minimum wage often claim it will help the poor by allowing them to more easily afford basic necessaries. The increased spending could also stimulate economic activity.

Skeptics of the increase have noted concern of the economic stress the policy may cause. Many low-profit businesses like restaurants and retailers could struggle to overcome the added cost of labor, and may be left with few options beyond raising prices on consumers or cutting their workforce. Seattle has already reported problems despite the increase not yet going into full effect.

A $15 minimum wage has the potential to add an additional $4 billion annually to the California budget by 2021, according to the state budget summary. The California Department of Finance released a report in March urging the state to not go beyond $10 an hour. Gov. Jerry Brown broke with fellow Democrats to oppose the policy out of concern for the economic fallout it may cause.

Additionally, San Francisco businesses like Abbot’s Cellar, Luna Park and Source were forced to close after the city passed its own $15 minimum wage. Borderlands Books was saved from going out of business by using a customer sponsorship fundraiser.

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