State Assemblyman Luis Alejo's (D-Salinas) mother-in-law works in California's agricultural fields and packing sheds. And it is her situation, Alejo says, that helps illustrate the need for a minimum-wage hike.
"Instead of advancing and being rewarded for her many years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication, she's kept at the minimum wage level even after 20 years working for the same employer," said Alejo.
Under Alejo's proposal:
- The minimum wage next year would go from $8 per hour to $8.25.
- In 2015, it would increase to $8.75 per hour.
- The following year, it jumps to $9.25 per hour
- Every year after that, the rate rises based on the rate of inflation
In years of negative inflation, the minimum wage would stay the same. But in these tough economic times, when the recovery is showing signs of slowing, critics say this is hardly the time to require a wage hike.
They point out increasing labor costs for businesses will either force them to cut hours or shut down.
"We do a blanket change like this that puts us out of competition with other states. It just adds to the unemployment and drives business out of California," said state Assm. Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills).
Ten states are raising their minimum wage this year. Each of them will adjust the rate annually according to the rate of inflation.
The proposed wage hike sounds great to Alexander Fest, because California hasn't increased its minimum wage in five years. But the price of everyday goods keeps going up.
"My biggest struggle is getting enough hours," said Fest, who makes minimum wage. "But I feel like if the minimum wage was higher, I would be better able to support myself with less hours."
The measure now heads to the state Senate, where lawmakers are sure to make some amendments.