California Gov. Jerry Brown approves minimum wage increase to $15

California on the way to establishing a $15 an hour minimum wage. But will this statewide legislation end up hurting the state, particularly those residents seeking entry level employment?

Scene from 2013 fast food workers' strike in New York City. (Image via Wikipedia entry on fast food worker strikes. Credit: Annette Bernhardt, CC license 2.0)

SACRAMENTO, March 29, 2016 — The state of California is planning on raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. According to worker group “Fight for $15,” the increase will boost the wages of nearly 6 million California workers who currently earn less than $15. California will join several West Coast cities that have already increased their minimum wages to $15, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

In a recent press conference, California Governor Jerry Brown promoted the new pay hike. “This plan raises the minimum wage in a careful and responsible way and provides some flexibility if economic and budgetary conditions change,” Brown said. Under the plan, the governor can temporarily suspend the minimum wage hikes in the event of poor economic conditions or a large state budget deficit.

The proposal is now expected to be approved by California’s state assembly.

On the East Coast, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed a $15 pay floor for workers in New York City, starting in 2019. The $15 floor will increase across the state by 2021. A plan has already been made to increase wages for fast-food and state government workers in New York City and the state.

Cuomo’s announcement comes following dozens of periodic one-day strikes across the country by low-wage and other fast food and low wage employees demanding a $15 per hour wage.

Democrats and labor advocates have praised the state’s plan. National Employment Law Project (NELP) general counsel Paul Sonn said told the media “This is a very, very significant increase and for the first time would begin to reverse years of falling pay at the bottom” of the income ladder. NELP receives major funding from the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and other union organizations.

Minimum wage increases have become a focal point of the 2016 presidential campaign. Both Democratic candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton have said they support increasing the minimum wage. However, Republicans have fought against increasing the minimum wage. Congress has blocked proposals to increase the Federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10. Republicans have claimed it will force businesses to replace workers with technology, forcing some to close their doors in the face of rising costs.

Some have observed that if Congress were to approve a substantial minimum wage hike nationwide, American workers, particularly at the entry level, would have an even harder time finding a job. Such a minimum wage hike could also cause college students burdened with substantial student loans to remain in debt during lengthier searches for increasingly harder-to-get jobs.

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