“What’s Next After $15?” a forum recently held by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Pasadena chapter, brought together community organizers and antipoverty activists to discuss the challenges now faced by the City of Roses to implement its new living wage law.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, knows something about pay increases. Last year, JPMorgan Chase’s board gave Dimon a 35 percent pay increase, from $20 million to $27 million, even though the bank’s profits fell two percent and it laid off 6,671 employees.
At a time when the income chasm between California’s wealthiest and poorest residents continues to be one of the widest in the nation, 2016 might become a watershed year in California’s ongoing struggle to achieve income equity for the state’s nearly 4.8 million low-wage households.
The placards stacked outside the Ronald Reagan State Building said it all: “We Did It!” The hundreds of low-income workers who had just carried those signs had come to downtown Los Angeles Monday morning to celebrate “it” – the passage of a $15 an hour state minimum wage. The mood was jubilant, almost delirious, in anticipation of Governor Jerry Brown’s arrival to sign the measure, known as Senate Bill 3.
To be clear: The new wage law does not mean fast-food workers, janitors, in-home caregivers or others are about to jump from earning $10 an hour to $15. Come January 1, 2017, people earning the current minimum wage will move to a $10.50 hourly wage. The following January, it will go up to $11, not reaching $15 until 2022 (2023 for workers employed in companies with 25 or fewer workers). But along the way, workers who previously had to get sick on their own time will be given three paid days off – a big boost for their health and the well-being of both the people they work with and serve.
Barring an unexpected reversal of fortune, California is on track to become the first state to officially raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. News first emerged on March 26 of an agreement with Governor Jerry Brown and leading Democratic legislators to raise the wage from its current $10 hourly mark to $10.50 beginning January 1, 2017, followed by continuous upticks that will result in the wage leveling off at $15 an hour by 2022. (Businesses employing fewer than 26 workers would get an extra year to institute the increases.)
After that the minimum can rise – but not fall – according to inflation. The agreement includes a provision giving workers three days of paid sick leave annually; it also permits California governors to freeze the wage in times of extreme economic downturn.
The movement toward a $15 wage has not followed a straight line,