California Dives Into the Unknown With $15 Minimum Wage

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


San Francisco and Los Angeles have already passed laws raising their minimum wages to $15 per hour. Now, in a victory for labor activists who were getting ready to put a $15 minimum wage on the ballot, the state is getting ready to  follow suit:

According to a document obtained by The Times, the negotiated deal would boost California’s statewide minimum wage from $10 an hour to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, with a 50-cent increase in 2018 and then $1-per-year increases through 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply, delaying their workers receiving a $15 hourly wage until 2023.

Future statewide minimum wage increases would be linked to inflation, but a governor would have the power to temporarily block some of the initial increases in the event of an economic downturn.

This would genuinely be terra incognita. The chart on the right shows the California minimum wage over the past 40 years, adjusted for inflation. An increase to $11 per hour in 2018 would return the state to slightly above its historical high point. Beyond that, however, the minimum wage goes far higher than it’s ever been.

What effect will that have, especially in lower-wage areas outside the big cities? There’s no telling. It won’t be Armageddon, but it might not be entirely benign either. Small increases in the minimum wage seem to have little or no effect on employment, but this increase isn’t small, and it unquestionably gets us beyond merely catching up with past erosion in the minimum wage. A statewide minimum of $15 would be a brand new thing.

Kansas recently tried out full-bore right-wing economics, and it’s pretty much been a disaster. Now liberals are getting their chance in California. Come back in a decade and we’ll find out if left-wing economics does any better.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate