California to Up Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour

A deal Saturday between lawmakers and labor unions in California will soon put the state at the forefront of the national debate over a living wage. Several large cities including Seattle and Los Angeles have already agreed to phase in a minimum wage hike to $15 an hour but California would be the first state to require it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the deal would boost the CA minimum wage 50 cents an hour for each of the first two years and then $1 per year through 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would receive an additional year to comply.

The increased wage would impact the pay of 38 percent of the workforce in the state – more than 5 million workers. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to announce the compromise shortly and the California legislature could vote on it quickly.

Another closely watched initiative is the proposed increase in the overtime exemption nationwide by the Labor Department. President Obama’s Administration made it a goal some time ago to double the exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act for time and a half overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week. The proposed increase would require employers to pay approximately five million more white-collar workers overtime.

The proposed change is racing the clock imposed by the upcoming election. The Labor Department sent its new regulations to the Office of Management and Budget in the middle of March. After OMB review, Congress has 60 legislative days to essentially veto the changes under the Congressional Review Act. A delay could push a decision on the overtime exemption to the next President.

House and Senate Republicans in Congress have introduced the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act to stop the government’s regulatory change and slow any future changes by requiring a comprehensive economic analysis on certain employers and all changes to be subject to notice and comment. If they are successful in delaying the changes until the next President and the Republican candidate is elected, the planned change will effectively be stopped as the new administration would be unlikely to support it.