Governor backs plan to raise California minimum wage

September 11, 2013 8:27:29 PM PDT
A lot of low-paid California workers are going to get a raise under a plan now backed by the governor. Gov. Jerry Brown signed onto a deal Wednesday to raise the state's minimum wage. But opponents say the time might not be right.

Coltyn Carpenter works at a cafe, cleaning tables, serving customers and cooking. But at $8 an hour, California's minimum wage, it's tough to make ends meet.

"To pay rent and things like that is definitely a struggle sometimes," Carpenter said. "The paycheck isn't always consistent as well, depends upon business and stuff like that."

Carpenter and millions of other minimum wage workers in the state will likely get a raise soon. Brown and Democratic leaders have reached an agreement backing a pay hike to $9 an hour next summer and $10 an hour in 2016.

The effort spearheaded by Assm. Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, removes an annual cost of living adjustment he originally sought, but the Salinas Democrat is happy with the compromise.

"It at least gives the dignity and respect to workers that when they work full time and make an honest living, they could provide for their families and pay their bills," Alejo said.

The governor's office says 25 percent of California children live in a household where at least one parent earns minimum wage. The governor believes the raise is long overdue for struggling families.

But opponents wonder if this is really the right time to raise the minimum wage. There are two big costs that'll hit businesses over the coming year.

Many companies still don't know how much the federal Affordable Care Act will cost them and California may have to boost employer contributions to the state's unemployment insurance fund which is $10 billion in the hole.

"You may create a scenario where employees are going to lose their jobs," St. Sen. Anthony Cannella,R-Ceres, said. "So I'm committed to looking at the minimum wage. I just would like to know those other costs so that we don't price people out of the labor force right now."

With a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, though, the proposal is expected to be approved.

"I think that would be awesome for someone like me who needs it," Carpenter said.

California's last minimum wage hike was 2008. Workers in San Francisco, San Jose and the hotel industry in Long Beach are already paid $10 or more per hour.


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