California Legislature approves raising minimum wage to $10

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A bill that would boost California's minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016 won approval by the state Legislature on Thursday and was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, who said he would sign it.The measure would raise the current $8 minimum wage to $9 an hour next July 1 and to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.

The 25 percent increase would be the first minimum-wage hike in California in five years and would put extra money in the pockets of an estimated 2.4 million Californians.

"This is the time to raise the minimum wage to provide relief for hard-working families," said the bill's author, Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo. About 3 of 5 minimum-wage earners are 26 or older, he stressed.

Labor unions lobbied heavily for the bill, both in the Legislature and at the governor's office. Business groups opposed it.

The bill won final passage in the Assembly on Thursday evening by a 51-25 vote. Earlier in the day it received a 26-11 vote of approval by the state Senate.

The governor's personal intervention, employers said, helped ensure the bill's passage.

AB 10, business lobbyists argued, would raise the minimum wage too much over too short a time.

The California Chamber of Commerce, which headed a large coalition of more than two dozen business organizations, labeled the bill "a job killer." The coalition warned that higher wages could raise the unemployment rate and jeopardize California's economic recovery.

"This is an unprecedented wage hike," said Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association. He predicted that many of the state's 87,000 eateries would deal with increased labor costs by cutting back employees' hours and reducing hiring.

But Louis Benitez, 51, a waiter at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles, welcomed the possibility of a wage increase. "It would be a big help to get a little bit more money per hour," said Benitez, who also earns tips from diners.

An extra $2 an hour would help pay the rent and put more food on the dinner table, said Shonda Roberts of Oakland. The 15-year fast-food veteran said she has a hard time feeding both herself and her teenage son on her current take-home pay.

"It's a start," she said, "but I'm still going to fight for $15," referring to a national campaign to give fast-food workers an even larger pay raise.

California currently has the eighth-highest minimum wage in the country. Washington state has the highest at $9.19 an hour, followed by Oregon at $8.95 and Vermont at $8.60. Nevada, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and Illinois all have minimum wages of $8.25 an hour.

Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws setting their local minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

Raising California's minimum wage, said Democratic Sen. Bill Monning, the bill's Senate floor manager, "is a moral imperative."