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article imageCalifornia leaders agree to hike minimum wage to $15 by 2022

By Nathan Salant     Mar 28, 2016 in Politics
Sacramento - Lawmakers and labor unions in California have agreed to raise the state's minimum wage to $15, by far the highest in the United States, by 2022.
But powerful state senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) cautioned Saturday that the deal was still tentative and needed to be approved by the legislature later this year.
"This is not a done deal," Leno told the Associated Press.
"Everyone's been operating in good faith and we hope to get it through the legislature," he said.
Leno said the measure would go before lawmakers as part of a minimum-wage package that raises the state's minimum from the $10 it is now to $10.50 next year, $11 in 2018, and $1 per year through 2022.
"This is an issue I've been working on for many years," he said.
"The governor and stakeholders have all been negotiating earnestly and in good faith for some time," Leno said.
Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply, the AP said.
The proposal could possibly head off competing ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage that already are pending, including one that has already qualified for the California ballot this year that would raise the minimum even faster than Leno's proposal.
California's current $10 minimum already is among the highest in the United States, second only to the $10.50 minimum approved by Washington, D.C.
At $15, California's minimum would be the highest state wage in the country by far, although other states are considering increases that rival the proposal, the AP said.
Some states have passed higher minimums for government employees and state-contracted workers, and some cities including Seattle have already passed $15 an hour increases.
Oregon officials approved a law earlier this month to increase that state's minimum wage to nearly $15 in urban areas over the next six years.
But California union leaders involved in the negotiations said the bill would not force the competing initiatives off the ballot.
Sean Wherley of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West said union leadership had not yet decided what to do about its initiative, which has already qualified for the 2016 ballot.
"Ours is on the ballot," Wherley said.
"If some agreement is signed into law, then our executive board would decide what to do," he said.
The union proposal calls for reaching the $15 mark by 2021 while a second proposed measure would reach $15 even earlier than that, by 2020.
The second measure has attracted opposition from businesses and from Gov. Jerry Brown as too costly.
More about California, Sacramento, Leno, Minimum wage, $15 an hour
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