Advocates for the higher wage hailed the California legislation, describing it as a major victory that would propel similar efforts nationally.
LOS ANGELES — California would become the first state to adopt a $15-an-hour minimum wage after lawmakers reached a tentative deal to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.
It could mean the biggest advance yet in a campaign to increase pay for low-income workers that has reverberated in the Democratic presidential contest and cities nationwide.
The movement has gained traction in a dozen cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last week, the mayor of Washington, D.C., proposed a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing for a $15 minimum wage in New York City by the beginning of 2019 and statewide by July 2021. And Oregon officials approved a law earlier this month that will increase that state’s minimum wage to nearly $15 in urban areas over six years.
Under the tentative California deal — which could be announced as soon as Monday — the wage, which was raised to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, would increase incrementally to $15 over the next six years. Small businesses would have an extra year to comply.
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Advocates for the higher wage hailed the California legislation, describing it as a major victory that would propel similar efforts nationally. At $10 an hour, California already has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation along with Massachusetts. Washington state’s minimum wage is $9.47.
“This is a very big deal,” said Paul Sonn, the general counsel to the National Employment Law Project, a national research and advocacy group. “It would mean a raise for one of every three workers in the state.”
The deal comes as raising the minimum wage has become a central point of contention in the Democratic presidential contest.
Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator running for the Democratic nomination, has made a $15 federal minimum wage a central plank in his campaign; it is now $7.25 an hour.
His opponent, Hillary Clinton, has called for a $12 federal minimum wage but has said she supports efforts in some cities and states to pass a $15 minimum wage. She has resisted pressure to support a $15 federal minimum wage.
Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a Democrat, backed raising the minimum wage in 2013, when legislation passed increasing it to $10. He has since resisted efforts to raise it again, expressing concern that another increase could cost the state billions of dollars of wages and hurt the state’s business climate.
Under the latest deal, the wage would increase to $10.50 at the beginning of 2017 and escalate steadily until reaching $15 by 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply.
The deal was outlined Sunday by officials who had been briefed on the legislation and who requested anonymity to discuss a measure that has not yet been announced. Brown’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Aides to lawmakers involved in the effort said they could not comment until a final deal is announced.
The tentative deal came after union leaders moved to take the issue to voters this November. An initiative to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, which would peg future increases to inflation, qualified for the ballot last week. Union leaders have the authority to withdraw the initiative, presuming they are satisfied with the new legislation.
“If a California minimum- wage bill passes and is signed into law by the governor, we will take a careful look at it, and our executive board will decide what to do with our ballot initiative,” said Steve Trossman, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West.
“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.”
Leno said if an agreement is finalized, it would go before the Legislature as part of his minimum-wage bill that stalled last year.
California union leaders, however, said they would not immediately dispense with planned ballot measures. Sean Wherley, a spokesman for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said SEIU-UHWW’s leadership will decide whether to push ahead with its initiative that has already qualified for the ballot.