Labor activists hold a rally in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour on the National Mall on May 19, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

California’s largest businesses will be required to pay workers a minimum of $15 an hour in January.

It’s a milestone fast-food workers have been trying to achieve since 2012. But anti-poverty activists aren’t satisfied. Citing the state’s high cost of living and rising inflation, they are pushing for more.

Activist and investor Joe Sanberg is financing the attempt to gather enough signatures in California to get a ballot initiative in front of voters for the November election. Sanberg, who has talked about potentially running for president, wants the state’s minimum wage to hit $18 an hour for all businesses by 2026.

“We were a leader in pushing for a $15 minimum wage, but now we have to move the ball forward and farther. It’s overdue for $18,” Sanberg told the Los Angeles Times.

Next year, 26 U.S. states and Washington will raise their minimum wages, but only California and parts of New York will mandate hourly pay of at least $15, according to a report from payroll experts at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S.

However, many workers will see more substantial pay increases because their employers chose to raise their pay floor on their own.

A tight labor market resulted in many companies, ranging from banks to retailers to pizzerias, hiking wages for hourly workers to attract and retain staff. This year marked the first time that the average wage of restaurant and supermarket workers rose above $15 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries increased 4.2% for the 12 months ended in September 2021, the BLS found.

Other employers have surpassed the $15 benchmark already. Amazon has paid its workforce at least $15 an hour since 2018 and began offering new hires an average of $18 an hour this September. Costco raised its minimum wage to $17 an hour in October. Full-time employees of crafting retailer Hobby Lobby will earn at least $18.50 an hour starting Jan. 1. T-Mobile is paying its 75,000-person workforce at least $20 an hour. And Bank of America has pledged to pay hourly workers $25 an hour by 2025.

“It’s a job-seekers’ market, which means competition to keep and find top talent is competitive — and …….


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