Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers are discussing details about a landmark deal that would take California's minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour.
At a news conference Monday, Brown hailed the plan as a matter of economic justice.
"This program will happen over time in a gradual way," Brown said at a Monday news conference. "Unlike other efforts, this thing is the result of a lot of thinking, a lot of discussion, and taking ideas from a lot of sources."
Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would get an additional year to phase in the increases. The governor could pause the increases in times of budgetary or economic downturns.
Wages would increase to keep up with inflation after 2023.
Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West said in a statement that the deal "represents an important step forward towards lifting up those most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, particularly when it comes to workers of color and immigrant women."
California legislators and labor unions on Saturday reached the tentative agreement, a state senator said. It's a move that would make for the largest statewide minimum in the nation by far.
Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who stressed that the deal was not yet finalized, told The Associated Press the proposal would go before the Legislature as part of his minimum-wage bill that stalled last year. Leno said the deal would avoid taking the issue to the ballot. One union-backed initiative has already qualified for the ballot, and a second, competing measure is also trying to qualify.
Leno did not confirm specifics of the agreement, but most proposals have the wage increasing about a dollar per year until it reaches $15 per hour.
The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the deal, said the wage would rise to $10.50 in 2017, to $11 an hour in 2018, and one dollar per year to take it to $15 by 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply.
At $10 an hour, California already has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation along with Massachusetts. Only Washington, D.C., at $10.50 per hour is higher. The hike to $15 would make it the highest statewide wage in the nation by far, though raises are in the works in other states that might change by the time the plateau is reached in 2022.
Some states have passed higher minimums for government employees and state-contracted workers, and some cities including Seattle have already passed $15 an hour increases. And Oregon officials approved a law earlier this month that will increase that state's minimum wage to nearly $15 in urban areas over the next six years.
Legislative approval of a minimum-wage package would avoid taking the issue to the ballot. One union-backed initiative has already qualified for the ballot, and a second, competing measure is also trying to qualify.