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Measure to hike California’s minimum wage to $18 fails to qualify for November election

California voters will not get a chance in November to vote on whether to increase the minimum wage to $18 an hour.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

It appears that California voters will not get a chance to vote on increasing the minimum wage to $18 in November.

The minimum wage initiative was not among seven measures that had enough valid signatures to qualify for the general election ballot by Thursday’s deadline, according to the California secretary of state.

California’s minimum wage for all employers is set to rise to $15.50 an hour in January, as inflation triggers a law governing automatic pay increases.

The state’s minimum wage has increased yearly since 2017, and is currently $14 an hour for small employers and $15 an hour for employers with more than 26 workers.

Although California’s minimum wage is higher than the national rate of $7.25, proponents of the measure say the current standard is not enough, especially as housing costs and gas prices soar.

“Working families are suffocating,” said Anna Bahr, spokesperson for the Living Wage Act campaign. “The cost of living is skyrocketing — gas prices are at an all-time high, grocery bills are breaking the bank and a single medical emergency is enough to send someone into a lifetime of debt.”

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The initiative’s failure to qualify for the ballot came as a surprise, as the campaign announced in May that it had 1 million signatures, well above the 623,212 required.

Bahr said Friday the campaign “will pursue every possible remedy” to get the measure on the ballot in November despite not meeting secretary of state standards set on Thursday.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Business groups opposed the measure, arguing that wages are not something that should be mandated by the state and that not all companies can afford the same standard increase.

As of today, the minimum wage rises to $16.04 an hour in the city of Los Angeles and $15.96 in unincorporated L.A. County.

Joe Sanberg, a Los Angeles investor and antipoverty activist who considered a 2020 presidential run, spearheaded the initiative and called the national minimum wage “a starvation wage.”

“There isn’t a single person in this country that can live a life of dignity on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr,” Sanberg said in a tweet Friday. “If the minimum wage had increased at the rate of worker productivity since 1960, it would be $25 today.”

Meanwhile, pay hikes for minimum-wage workers in Los Angeles, led by Mayor Eric Garcetti, kicked in on Friday, increasing pay there to $16.04 an hour.

Measures that did qualify for the Nov. 8 election include proposals asking voters if they want to enshrine abortion access in the state Constitution and legalize sports betting.


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