Union Submits 600,000 Signatures for $15 California Minimum Wage

It looks like California voters will decide this November if they want to raise the state's minimum wage.

A faction of California's largest union began submitting signatures Tuesday for a ballot initiative asking voters to raise California's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2021, one of two competing proposals vying for the November ballot.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined SEIU's United Healthcare Workers West in San Francisco as union officials turned in signatures. The group said it has collected 600,000 names, far more than the nearly 366,000 required to qualify an initiative this year.

The initiative, the latest in a nationwide effort by unions and other groups to raise the wage, would raise the state's minimum wage by $1 a year starting in 2017 until it hits $15 in 2021. After that, increases would be automatically tied to the cost of living.

Newsom owns nine restaurants and said raising the minimum wage is the right thing for everyone.

"The one thing I know is that businesses can’t survive in a world that is failing," Newsom said, adding income inequality is "the issue of our time."

But, in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, the owner of Trattoria Pinocchio calls it a job killer. Giovanni Zocca says people who vote for the measure shouldn’t complain when a plate of spaghetti goes for $30.

"As soon as they raise it, everything is going to go up," Zocca said.

San Francisco is already on a track for a $15 an hour minimum wage by 2018. The cities of Los Angeles, Seattle, Oakland and Berkeley have also approved phased-in increases to eventually take their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The latest Field Poll shows 68 percent support for the measure, but initiatives generally start out strong, with poll numbers dropping as Election Day nears.

The state council of SEIU also is collecting signatures for a competing minimum-wage initiative that would bring it to $15 by 2020, a year earlier, and provide six paid sick days annually. The union has pledged to spend $20 million to $30 million on a statewide campaign.

Lawmakers are also considering whether to attempt to pass a minimum-wage increase through the Legislature.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, cautioned supporters during his budget announcement earlier this month that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost the state general fund about $4 billion a year.

The SEIU state council has said it hopes both measures can eventually merge to avoid voter confusion and present a unified campaign.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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