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Fair Wage Act qualifies for November Ballot

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Fair Wage Act qualifies for November Ballot

Ballot Initiative to Raise California’s Minimum Wage Officially Qualifies for Nov. 8 Election

Passage Would Lead the Charge for Higher Wages Across the Nation

The national movement to raise low-wage workers’ income took its biggest step forward today when a ballot initiative to gradually increase California’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021 officially qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot.

If approved by voters, California would become the largest state to improve the standard of living for low-wage workers, benefitting 3.3 million men and women in California – including 400,000 in the eight-county San Francisco Bay Area – and help set the stage for a higher minimum wage across the country.

“Life has become so expensive in California that minimum wage earners struggle to pay for rent, food, and medicine, even if they're working 60 hours a week at two jobs, and this doesn’t reflect our values as a society that takes care of each other,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who is co-chair of the campaign. “Under this ballot initiative, we can start to restore some balance and dignity to the lives of millions of hardworking men and women and their families in California.”

The California Secretary of State’s office certified that initiative organizers had collected the necessary 402,468 signatures to be immediately placed on the ballot. 

The Fair Wage Act of 2016 would raise California’s minimum wage to $11 in 2017 and then gradually increase it a dollar a year until it reaches $15 in 2021. Once the minimum wage reaches $15, it will automatically be adjusted each year to keep pace with the cost of living. California’s minimum wage is currently $10 an hour, which amounts to less than $21,000 a year for a full-time worker.

“As a small business owner, I know firsthand how hard it can be balancing the books and I also know that a well-paid employee is more productive and helps satisfied customers keep coming back,” said Gary Gerber, CEO of Sun Light & Power in Berkeley. “And in cities like Oakland and San Francisco, which have enacted increased minimum wage laws, unemployment rates continue to drop.”

Advocates of the ballot initiative say it will improve the lives of millions, generate more income tax revenue for state and local government to spend on schools, roads and parks, reduce government spending needed to aid the poor, and will grow the economy as the higher wages are spent in workers’ communities.

“Life is pretty hard when you have to keep telling your kids, ‘No, you can’t have that and you can’t have that,” said Catalina Velasquez, a janitor from San Jose who earns $10 an hour. “A raise would mean I could pay for their sports leagues and I could fix my car.”

The initiative has been endorsed by 300 community organizations, labor unions, faith leaders, small business owners and elected officials, including U.S. Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro), California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Controller Betty Yee, 28 state legislators and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who serve as co-chair of the initiative campaign.

According to the Field Poll, 68 percent of registered California voters support the initiative.