There is currently an effort by the “Yes on California Living Wage Act” campaign to raise the minimum wage in California to $18 dollars an hour. The California $18 Minimum Wage Initiative qualified for the November 5, 2024, ballot in California. This act will increase the minimum wage to $18 dollars an hour by 2026, from the current $16 per hour which has annual adjustments for inflation.

Under the proposed legislation, after the wage reaches $18 an hour, it will increase annually tied to increases in the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The “Yes on California Living Wage Act”, also known as the Working Hero Action for the Living Wage Act PAC is leading this campaign and has raised $10.8 million. This comes at a time where people have become more aware of the cost of living in California and how it continues to rise to unprecedented levels, despite wages staying stagnant. The passing of this bill would be a
significant achievement for the most populated state’s workers and economy. In the purpose statement of the Living Wage Act of 2022 is noted that if the federal minimum wage had grown since 1960 at the same rate as increases in the rate of productivity, it would be $24 per hour right now.

Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation and former member of the California State Assembly, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, is currently supporting this initiative along with investor Joe Sanberg, who donated $10.8 million dollars to the PAC. Joining them is the director of the Food Labor Research Center at UC Berkeley, Saru Jayaraman. They are making arguments in favor of the initiative related to cost-of-living increases and how thousands of restaurants across the nation are raising wages in a desperate attempt to get workers back after the pandemic. However these workers are skeptical that the raises will be permanent and want the assurance that will come from passing of the California $18 Minimum Wage Initiative.

The passage of this initiative would raise pay for an estimated 5 million workers, and may lift up to 3.5 million workers out of poverty as estimated by economist Michael Reich from the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. The University of Berkeley Labor Center examined who would benefit from the bill, stating that nearly all affected workers are adults. Of these workers, 70 percent work full time, 38 percent have children, and Latinx workers make up nearly 50 percent of those affected by this proposal. And finally, it is estimated that this can all be done with little to no impact on the number of jobs available in California or on inflation.

In an ABC News interview, Joe Sanberg, who filed this initiative and leads the effort, comments on how California’s rising cost of living has yet to be matched by appropriately paced wage increases. He simply notes that “what’s for
sure is eighteen [dollars per hour] is better than fifteen.”(https://youtu.be/Ey2TJrJkII8?t=) He assures skeptics that higher cost of labor for employers will be justified by an influx of customers and spending, brought upon by enabling low-wage workers to rise above their current strict budgets. Many small business owners themselves are in favor of raising minimum wage as a means to show solidarity with their workers and give back to the community that kept them afloat during the preceding pandemic times.

Make sure to spread the word. Vote YES for the $18 Minimum Wage Initiative on November 5th, 2024.

by Baine Loughran and Sydney Tweedley