Senator Mark Leno has introduced legislation designed to help lift California’s low-wage earners out of poverty.
Senate Bill 3 – to raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour in 2016 and $13 in 2017 – comes on the heels of the passage of minimum wage ballot measures in four politically conservative states, Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.
The bill is jointly authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino.
“Hard working, full-time employees across California are forced to live in poverty and rely on public assistance just to put food on the table for their families,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco.
“This income inequality crisis, which disproportionately impacts women and children, is detrimental to our communities and the economy,” he said. “It is time to accelerate the minimum wage and give low-income workers the respect they deserve for a job well done.”
California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly a quarter of the state’s 38 million residents live in poverty.
An employee working full-time earning $9 an hour brings home just $18,000 annually before taxes, which is just 75 percent of the federal poverty line for a family of four.
As a result, many cities have taken the matter into their own hands, raising local minimum wages either by government action or at the ballot box. Voters in San Francisco recently approved a gradual minimum wage hike that tops out at $15 in 2018, while Oakland voters approved a $12.25 minimum wage.
In addition, the City of Los Angeles has approved a minimum hourly wage of $15.37 for its hotel workers.
“The cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco have led the way by raising the minimum wage for its workers and making sure their hard work is rewarded with fair pay,” said Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, principal co-author of SB 3.
Research from the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at UC Berkeley indicates that higher wages reduce turnover and improve work performance and have no negative effect on the number of jobs available.
“Increasing the minimum wage as proposed by Senator Leno is long overdue,” said Michael Herald, legislative advocate with the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “Poverty is not just about income and wages. It is about ensuring that infant children get the nourishment and environment that will allow them to be self-sufficient as adults. Research shows that children who go hungry or homeless are more likely to go to jail, less likely to graduate and will earn less as adults.”
Women are also especially impacted by the minimum wage. About six in 10 minimum wage workers in California are women, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
“Raising the minimum wage in California is a women’s issue,” said Surina Khan, CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, which supports the bill.
“Women, and in particular single mothers, hold a disproportionate share of minimum wage jobs and disproportionately live in poverty: sixty-four percent of minimum wage workers are women and of these, 60 percent are supporting families. SB 3 increases California’s current minimum wage of $9 per hour in two steps, to $11 in 2016 and $13 in 2017. Beginning in 2019, the minimum wage would be adjusted annually to the rate of inflation.