Lee, Newsom back $15 minimum wage

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined a labor group Tuesday in submitting voter signatures to The City’s Department of Elections for a ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage statewide.

The Fair Wage Act of 2016, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West, would raise the minimum wage to $11 in 2017 and then increase it by a dollar a year until it reaches $15 in 2021. After that, the minimum wage would be automatically adjusted for inflation, according to organizers.

Bay Area cities including San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have approved their own minimum wage increase, in part due to the area’s high cost of living.

Lee Tuesday said in a statement that the wage hike in San Francisco has benefited workers and small businesses:

“Now is the time to spread that model across California by having wages rise steadily and predictably, which is fair to workers and employers.”

Officials with the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West said they are submitting more than 600,000 signatures this week statewide, more than the 366,000 needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

The measure is one of two in the works for that ballot, however.

The Service Employees International Union California is currently collecting signatures for a rival measure known as the Raise California’s Wage and Paid Sick Days Act of 2016, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 and guarantee full-time workers at least six sick days a year.

SEIU-UHW spokesman Sean Wherley said today of his group’s measure, which organizers said would benefit around 400,000 workers in the Bay Area:

“This one is moving ahead, it’s farther along, it’s simpler, it benefits 3.3 million workers with no carveouts. … This is the one that’s going ahead.”

Organizers for the SEIU California measure said it would get the minimum wage to $15 a year sooner, include additional benefits for workers and it’s backed by the national Fight for 15 movement, which has been pushing for minimum wage increases around the country.

Newsom, who appeared with Lee today in San Francisco, was quoted by both groups as endorsing both measures. A call to his office today for clarification has not yet been returned.

In a statement, Newsom said California could:

 “… lead the country with a living wage for millions of working people and their families. … Children shouldn’t be going to bed hungry because their parents earn the minimum wage.”