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California Raises Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour

California legislators and labor unions have reached a tentative agreement that will take the state's minimum wage from $10 to $15 an hour, a state senator said, a move that would make for the largest statewide minimum in the nation by far.

"This is not a done deal," Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, told The Associated Press on Saturday. "Everyone's been operating in good faith and we hope to get it through the Legislature."

Protesters gather outside a Wendy's fast food restaurant in support of a nation-wide strike and protest to raise the hourly minimum wage of fast food workers in San Diego
Protesters gather outside a Wendy's fast food restaurant in support of a nation-wide strike and protest to raise the hourly minimum wage of fast food workers to $15 in San Diego, California December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Leno said if an agreement is finalized, it would go before the Legislature as part of his minimum-wage bill that stalled last year.

If the Legislature approves a minimum-wage package, it 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.

"This is an issue I've been working on for many years," Leno said. "The governor and stakeholders have all been negotiating earnestly and in good faith for some time."

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. 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.