California is expected to announce a groundbreaking $15 minimum wage deal

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California lawmakers and union leaders have reached an agreement that would gradually raise the state's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022, according to reports. The move would make California the first in the nation to have such a high minimum wage.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the clandestine deal was reached over the weekend, and could be officially announced today.

The LA Times, which obtained a document listing details of the agreement, reports that the change would happen gradually: Next year, the state's minimum hourly wage would jump from $10 to $10.50, and in 2018 the wage would reach $11. After that, hourly minimum wage would increase by $1 per year until 2022. Small businesses, with 25 employees or less, would have until 2023 to bring the minimum wage up to $15 per hour. If the state is hit with a recession, the governor would be able to pause the increase. The agreement also includes the gradual addition of three sick days for government care workers who help disabled people in their homes.


If the deal goes through it could bump two minimum wage initiatives from the ballot in November—the "Raise California's Wage and Paid Sick Days Act of 2016," and the "Fair Wage Act of 2016," both of which demand the hourly minimum wage be raised to $15 by 2021 at the latest. Avoiding the vote, the Times explains, would mean saving campaigning money for both those who support and oppose the legislation, and—since one of these is likely to pass—buy the governor some time.

But it's possible that union leaders would opt to continue to fight for higher wages, even if the agreement passes through the Legislature. The Associated Press reports that the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, whose parent union worked on the deal, might still want Californians to vote on its measure. Spokesman Sean Wherley told the AP, "If some agreement is signed into law, then our executive board would decide what to do. They would only make that decision after any agreement is signed into law."


The Washington Post reports that the wage hike would affect 38% of California's workforce. If the deal becomes law, it would mark a victory for the Fight for 15 movement, which has mobilized activists throughout the country.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.