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A $15 Minimum Wage Is Coming to California, Governor Says

A $15 minimum wage for California workers is pretty much a done deal.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced a "landmark agreement" with legislators today that would make the Golden State the first in the nation to reach a $15 floor, his office said in a statement.

The Legislature would have to approve the plan in upcoming days, but Brown seems to have his ducks in a row.

"California is proving once again that it can get things done and help people get ahead," Brown said. "This plan raises the minimum wage in a careful and responsible way and provides some flexibility if economic and budgetary conditions change." 

Brown's office released a schedule of increases as part of the agreement. It starts with $10.50 an hour as of Jan. 1 for businesses with 26 employees or more. (Today's minimum is $10 in California.) For those with 25 employees or fewer, the $10.50 rate would start Jan. 1, 2018.

The minimum would gradually increase to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2023, for all businesses. (See graphic, below, for a detailed schedule).

A $15 Minimum Wage Is Coming to California, Governor Says (2)
Office of the governor

The plan includes "off-ramp provisions" for the governor that would allow him to "pause" the schedule should economic hard times hit the state.

Business interests have fought the increase, arguing that it will cost jobs. 

But as the economy has recovered, Wall Street stocks have experienced some of their healthiest highs in history, and America's ultra-rich have taken most of the economic gains in the last few years, proponents of a minimum wage have essentially said enough is enough.

Trickle-down economics don't seem to be working. And it's hard to believe that businesses keep extra employees around because wages are so low.

"Low wages ... are at the root of poverty," Laphonza Butler, Service Employees International Union California president, told reporters during a teleconference this afternoon.

Indeed, the governor's office noted that the poverty level for a family of four is $24,300 in annual income. If you make $10 an hour, your annual take is $20,800.

The agreement was an attempt to "assure that no one works hard to raise their family in poverty," Butler said.

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said today's announcement is "a great victory for California."

"This agreement also shows that the great strength of our labor movement is felt in every corner of our state," he said. "It means real gains for millions of underpaid workers who have struggled to provide a decent life for their families."

Mayor Eric Garcetti also applauded the announcement.

"I am heartened to see our state following L.A.'s lead toward a wage that can lift people out of poverty," he said. "City by city, state by state, we can confront the scourge of income inequality and make a difference in the lives of millions of families."

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