#FightFor15 WORKER MOVEMENT PROPELS HISTORIC $15 WAGE
BILL TO GOVERNOR BROWN’S DESK
Legislative Votes Today Bring Millions of California Workers
Closer to a Raise & 3 Paid Sick Days for All
Sacramento, CA – Hundreds of janitors, home care workers, grocery employees, hotel workers and others in low-wage jobs converged on the State Capitol to see legislators send to Governor Brown’s desk a bill that would raise California’s minimum wage to $15 by 2022. When SB 3 (Leno) is signed by Governor Brown, as expected, California will be the first state in the nation to commit to a $15 statewide minimum wage. Small businesses (25 or fewer employees) will have an additional year to implement the new wages.
“Wages didn't get raised until workers raised their voices. The credit for making history today belongs to the workers who spoke out and risked it all, the labor unions and community organizations who supported them, and elected leaders here in California who listened. As a result, millions of Californians are on the path out of poverty,” said Laphonza Butler, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California and SEIU Local 2015.
“This is a historic day for California and the country,” said Art Pulaski, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation. “This victory is testament to the power working people hold when we stand together to demand a fair share of the economic gains we help create. As a result of the tireless advocacy of so many courageous low-wage workers, California takes a massive leap forward today in the fight to rebalance our nation’s economy.”
The votes in California are the latest and biggest victory for the Fight for $15 and underpaid workers who just three years ago launched their movement for higher pay and union rights in New York City. Two years ago, their movement caught fire in California when workers began organizing locally in cities like Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco to raise the wage. When this agreement is signed into law by Governor Brown, California will be the first state in the nation to adopt a $15 standard for all workers statewide.
At a rally of hundreds of workers on the Capitol steps, veterans of local raise the wage campaigns shared how their involvement paved the way for statewide victory. Fast food sector workers like Damian Monroy from Long Beach say sharing their stories of struggles living on minimum wage work have empowered them to make change in their own lives and beyond. Damian says, “I had to drop out of my college classes because I couldn’t afford school. For me leaving school means that I am stuck working a minimum wage job for my entire life. If I was earning $15 today, I could afford my own place and I could go back to school.”
The historic vote puts California one step closer to lifting the wages of 5.3 million Californians – or one third of all workers. Among those who will see a raise, 96% are age 20 or older and 37% have children according to a new report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center. 55% are Latino.
“I am RELIEVED that our elected leaders have heard us. For me, $15 an hour means I can have fresh produce without relying on food banks,” said Lisa Scott, a home care provider from El Dorado County. “I live in a rural area but that doesn’t mean it’s not an expensive place to live and work. In fact, gas is expensive because I have to do so much driving. I’ve never met my youngest grandson who is five because I haven’t been able to save money for a plane ticket. $15 means I can finally save money to visit him and my other grandchildren out of state.”
As workers celebrated how this breakthrough will lift millions of families out of poverty, they resolved to use the momentum they’ve created to take bigger strides against income inequality. Thousands of janitors rallied and marched in events across California today, Cesar Chavez Day, to call for passage of the minimum wage proposal and for continued action to fix a broken janitorial industry. They pledged to keep fighting to ensure that the new minimum wage floor reaches everyone – especially workers of color, immigrants, and women who are often vulnerable to exploitation and harassment on the job. At the same time, child care providers who are paid as contractors plan to work through the legislature this year to achieve the equivalent of a $15 per hour wage.
“With no union and no insurance, a breast cancer diagnosis left me with a $21,000 bill to pay for treatment. I've made arrangements to pay but is very stressful and difficult,” said Esperanza Vasquez, a janitor who works in El Segundo for the minimum wage. “Right now I work every weekend. $15 would allow me to devote more time to my family.”
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The California Labor Federation is made up of more than 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions, representing 2.1 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries.