New York and California both enacted a $15 minimum wage Monday, marking the first statewide victories for advocates of the increase.
New York and California have been among a handful of states fighting to be the first to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour. Supporters have advocated for years but their victories have been limited to the city-level.
“These policies will not only lift up the current generation of low-wage workers and their families, but ensure fairness for future generations and enable them to climb the ladder of opportunity,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “I am proud to sign these programs into law, because they will ensure a stronger, fairer and brighter future for all New Yorkers.”
Cuomo has put the $15 minimum wage at the forefront of his agenda. He introduced a proposal Sept. 10 designed to phase-in the increase statewide over a few years and has since traveled the state to advocate for his plan. California Gov. Jerry Brown has been more hesitant to embrace the $15 minimum wage but eventually arrived at a compromise with state lawmakers and unions.
“This is about economic justice, it’s about people,” Brown said in a statement. “This is an important day, it’s not the end of the struggle but it’s a very important step forward.”
Brown was concerned the increase could harm the state economy. He opposed a union-backed measure which was already approved for a general vote on the November ballot. Brown and lawmakers eventually agreed to a measure which they said addresses the economic concerns, while making the ballot vote void.
Both state measures included several provisions that were the result of compromise to help get them passed. Cuomo, for instance, had to face a Republican majority in the state Senate. They include a longer phase-in period and special exemptions for small businesses to help them adjust. Small businesses and certain low-profit industries usually have more difficultly overcoming the added cost of labor.
Policy supporters say it could help address income inequality, but critics aren’t so sure. Opponents argue people may end up earning more money, but employers may also cut back on workforce or increase prices to overcome the added cost of labor. The California minimum wage will be increasing from $10.00 an hour while New York will be increasing from $9.00 an hour.
The union-backed Fight for $15 movement has been at the forefront of the policy push nationwide and locally. Both measures will also increase paid sick leave.
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