California’s minimum wage is about to hit a milestone in the coming days when new laws kick in for 2022 and give a pay raise to the state’s lowest-paid workers.
Starting Jan. 1, businesses with 26 or more employees will have to pay their workers at least $15 an hour — a figure that labor rights advocates like Fight for $15 have sought for years. The new amount represents an increase of $1 from the current minimum wage.
When the requirement takes effect, California will become the first state in the U.S. to mandate a $15 minimum wage, the Associated Press reports.
Meanwhile, employers with 25 or fewer workers will have to raise their pay to at least $14 an hour in the new year, also $1 more than the existing law stipulates. One last increase in 2023 will bring the amount to $15 for this group of employees as well, however.
The increases are part of a state law that has steadily hiked the minimum wage since Jan. 1, 2017, when it was around $10.
California’s statewide minimum wage is already among the highest in the U.S. and well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25, something that hasn’t changed in more than a decade.
But many cities in the Golden State — primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area — already offer higher minimum wages than the rest of the state because of local ordinances.
In Southern California, the West Hollywood City Council recently passed one that will set the city’s minimum wage at $17.64 starting July 2023. That’s above the nation’s current highest, which is $16.84 in the Bay Area city of Emeryville, according to a Pew Research analysis.
Emeryville will be among three California cities in California with a minimum wage above $17 an hour in the new year, when it hikes the amount to $17.13. Two cities in the Silicon Valley and Sunnyvale will each hike theirs to $17.10 starting Jan. 1, 2022.
And the hourly minimum wage will rise to at least $16 an hour in about a dozen other cities in California, according to data compiled by the UC Berkeley Labor Center.
Some anti-poverty activists believe that minimum pay should be even higher, though. A ballot initiative submitted this month to the state attorney general’s office seeks to raise the minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2026 through a series of incremental hikes beginning in 2023.
“The Living Wage Act of 2022” could be put to voters in next November’s election, should it receive enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Comments are being accepted on the proposal through Jan. 1, 2022.