California Reported to be First State to Reach $15 Minimum Wage

Agreement Would Mean Big Raises for More Than 1 in 3 Workers, Reversing Years of Falling Pay

New York Lawmakers Trying to Negotiate a Similar Agreement

This weekend news leaked that California lawmakers have reached an agreement to raise the state minimum wage to $15.  If confirmed, the historic step would mean big raises for more than 1 in 3 workers in the state, reversing years of falling pay.

The potential California action marks a rapid acceleration of the $15 minimum wage movement, with the first statewide $15 minimum wage.  New York lawmakers are attempting to negotiate a similar agreement, which could be announced this week.

“The Fight for $15 is winning historic changes no one would have thought possible just a few years ago,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.  “California’s $15 minimum wage will mean big raises for more than 1 in 3 workers in the state, reversing years of falling pay.”

Once final, more than 5 million low-wage workers in California will get raises of close to $4,000 per year once the increase phases in.  The state will now guarantee full-time workers an annual income of at least $31,000 once the raise phase in.  For millions of low-paid workers like security guards, home health aides and waitresses, that’s the difference between near poverty and dignity.

The typical worker earning less than $15 is a woman over 25 with some college-level coursework who works full-time and provides on average half of her household’s income, according to analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.

With the nation’s economy tilting toward low-paying jobs, 42% of America’s workers today earn less than $15 per hour.

To date, 9 U.S. cities and counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle have approved $15 minimum wages; New York has approved a $15 minimum wage for fast food workers, and Massachusetts has for Medicaid-funded home care workers.

In addition to New York, in Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser this week announced plans to push for a $15 minimum wage, and a ballot initiative for a $15 minimum wage has also been proposed for the November 2016 election. New Jersey legislative leaders have also announced plans to place a $15 minimum wage on the 2017 election ballot in order to sidestep an expected veto by Gov. Chris Christie.

New state-of-the-art research from University of California-Berkeley economists on the impact of phasing the minimum wage up to $15 over five years shows broad benefits for workers and families, and little adverse impact on jobs.  $15 minimum wages generate billions in new consumer spending, which boosts sales and offsets the higher costs to businesses.  75 economists have endorsed the new research and another 200 economists have backed a $15 national minimum wage.

Business organizations and companies representing more than 32,000 businesses have endorsed $15 minimum wages in states such as New York.


The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit

For Immediate Release: March 27, 2016
Contact: Anna Susman,, 646-200-5285

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