'Our Movement is Unstoppable': California, New York Approve $15 Minimum Wage
New York and California lawmakers on Thursday agreed to raise state minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest in the nation, in a historic move that comes less than four years after the Fight for $15 movement launched in New York City.
“There has never been a week in U.S. history when more workers in more places have won a common demand,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), in a statement on Thursday. “And there has never been a stronger case for why workers need an organization to help them improve their lives.”
“Ten million people will be lifted out of poverty because workers joined together and acted like a union,” Henry said.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other legislative officials announced that the state would raise its minimum wage in New York City to $15 an hour by 2018, with other wage increases rolling out more gradually elsewhere in the state, such as Long Island and Westchester County.
“Once phased in, close to one in three working New Yorkers—nearly 3 million in total—would receive raises of more than $4,000 per year,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “For a home health aide or a waitress who struggles to get by on $15,000 per year, that’s the difference between near poverty and a life with less stress and more dignity.”
“We are showing the whole country that when workers stick together, there’s no such thing as impossible.”
—Jorel Ware, worker and organizer
Just hours before New York’s agreement, California lawmakers passed a similar measure, which will see the state raise its minimum wage to $15 over the next six years and implement an automatic cost-of-living increase that would raise hourly pay even higher as soon as 2024.
California Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the plan into law Monday.
Businesses with fewer than 26 employees would be afforded an extra year to comply, while the governor would be allowed to pause the wage hikes by one year in case of economic problems.
Chants of “Si se puede!” came from the galley in the chamber as the state Senate voted 26-12 for the plan.
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