Minimum wage initiative set for California’s fall ballot

Reprinted from The Sacramento Bee (3/23/2016)

A ballot measure that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021 is headed for the November ballot, elections officials said Tuesday.

The Secretary of State’s Office projected that sponsors of “The Fair Wage Act of 2016” had turned in 423,236 valid voter signatures, more than enough to qualify by random sampling and avoid a complete count.

The initiative’s sponsor, Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, could choose to abandon the measure as late as June 30, amid the possibility that lawmakers, Gov. Jerry Brown and others could agree on an alternative approach before then.

Tuesday’s proposal would raise the minimum wage, currently $10 an hour, to $11 an hour by 2017, and by $1 an hour each subsequent year until it reaches $15 per hour Jan. 1, 2021. After that, the wage would automatically rise with the cost of living.

Supporters have raised more than $4.7 million, almost all of that from SEIU, United Healthcare Workers West.

The Service Employees International Union’s state council, California’s largest labor union, is currently gathering increasingly expensive signatures for a competing minimum wage increase. Similar to the UHW proposal, it would hike the base wage to $15 an hour by 2020 as well as mandate six paid sick days a year.

The current $10-an-hour wage kicked in at the start of the year, but statewide polls have consistently shown strong support for further increasing the wage floor in California.

Yet advocates worry that dueling proposals by quarreling unions could lead to mutual destruction, with voters rejecting both measures.

Tuesday’s signature update brings to eight the number of ballot measures that have qualified for the fall ballot, including efforts to ban plastic bags and require condom use in pornography filming.