Union workers protest for nationwide minimum wage hike

- Thousands of union workers took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Thursday to call for a nationwide boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which has already been approved in California.

Protesters amassed on Grand Avenue at 10:30 a.m. and began a loud procession to a McDonald's restaurant at 690 S. Alameda St. 

The march was held concurrently with similar protests across the country, with participants calling not only for a national $15-an-hour wage, but for the right to unionize and for laws preventing wage theft.

On April 4, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that will increase the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022. Under the legislation, California's $10-an-hour minimum wage will increase to $10.50 in January 2017, then to $11 on Jan. 1, 2018. The minimum wage will then go up by a dollar in each of the following years until it
reaches $15 in 2022, after which it will continue to rise each year by up to 3.5 percent to account for inflation.

Businesses with 25 or fewer employees get an extra year to raise their wage, so that workers will be paid $15 by 2023.

The law also gives the governor the ability to temporarily halt the raises if there is a forecasted budget deficit of more than one percent of annual revenue, or due to poor economic conditions such as declines in jobs and
retail sales.

Government workers who provide in-home health services will receive an additional three paid sick days under the plan.

The wage hike will affect 5.6 million workers, or about one-third of the statewide workforce, officials said.

The proposal is similar, although slightly slower, than an already-approved increased in the city of Los Angeles minimum wage. Under the city ordinance, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 on July 1 and eventually
reach $15 per hour in 2020, with future increases pegged to the Consumer Price Index.

The same wage hike schedule was also adopted for the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Other California cities have also enacted wage increases, some even earlier than Los Angeles. San Jose's wage rose to $10.30 per hour in Jan. 1, 2015, and is set to continue climbing depending on the CPI.

San Francisco's minimum hourly wage, now at $12.25, will go up to $13 on July 1 and to $15 in 2018, followed by further increases based on CPI, under a measure approved by that city's voters in 2014.

Republicans and business leaders opposed the statewide minimum-wage hike, arguing it will lead to businesses reducing the size of their work force or increasing prices to cover the costs of the increased wages.

Stuart Waldman, president of the Van Nuys-based Valley Industry & Commerce Association, said earlier this month the law will also give businesses another reason to leave the state entirely. "If you wanted to guarantee California will be the most expensive place to do business in the country for the foreseeable future, this is a good
first step," Waldman said.

"We encourage California lawmakers to engage with the business community in order to work toward real solutions for income equality. The creation of well-paying jobs is fostered through smart fiscal policies and
efficient government -- not simply making businesses pay more in wages."

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