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Minimum-wage increase compromise reached in Sacramento

September 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
State lawmakers are tackling yet another explosive issue as their legislative session draws to a close: a $2 hike in the minimum wage. Governor Jerry Brown backs the increase, but retailers and business leaders are strongly opposed.

Coltyn Carpenter works at a cafe, cleaning tables, serving customers, cooking -- you name it, he does it. But at $8 an hour, California's minimum wage, it's tough to make ends meet.

"To pay rent and things like that is definitely a struggle sometimes," said Carpenter. "And the paycheck isn't always consistent as well, depending upon business and stuff like that."

Carpenter and millions of other minimum-wage workers in the state will likely get a raise soon. Governor Brown and Democratic leaders have reached an agreement backing a pay hike to $9 an hour next summer, then $10 an hour in 2016.

The effort spearheaded by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) removes the annual cost-of-living adjustment he originally sought, but he is happy with the compromise.

"It at least gives the dignity and respect to workers that when they work full-time and make an honest living, that they could be able to provide for their families and pay their own bills," said Alejo.

The Governor's Office says 25 percent of California children, or 2.4 million, live in a household where at least one parent earns minimum wage.

The governor believes the raise is long overdue for struggling families.

But opponents wonder whether this is really the right time to raise the minimum wage. There are two big costs that will hit businesses over the coming year.

Many families still don't know how much the federal Affordable Care Act will cost them, and California may have to boost employer contributions to the state's unemployment insurance fund, which is $10 billion in the hole.

"You may create a scenario where employees are going to lose their jobs. So I'm committed to looking at minimum wage," said state Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres). "I just would like to know those other two costs firsts so that we don't price people out of the labor force right now."

With a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, though, the proposal is expected to be approved.

"I think that would be awesome for somebody like me who needs it," said Coltyn Carpenter.

California's last minimum wage hike was 2008. Workers in San Francisco, San Jose and the hotel industry in Long Beach are already paid $10 or more per hour.


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