LOS ANGELES — Calling it a "matter of justice," Gov. Jerry Brown put his signature on a bill that will hike California's minimum wage to $10 an hour within three years, making it one of the highest rates in the nation.
The legislation signed Wednesday at a ceremony in downtown Los Angeles will gradually raise the current minimum of $8 an hour to $9 on July 1, 2014, then to $10 on Jan. 1, 2016.
The increase is the first to the state's minimum wage in six years and comes amid a national debate over whether it's fair to pay fast-food workers, retail clerks and others wages so low that they often have to work second or third jobs.
Brown called the bill an overdue piece of legislation that will help working-class families and close the gap between "workers at the bottom and those who occupy the commanding heights of the economy."
The governor was joined by state legislators and business owners who supported the measure, saying increased wages would boost the state's economy.
The state Senate approved AB10 on a 26-11 vote Sept. 12, and the Assembly followed hours later on a 51-25 vote. Both chambers voted largely along party lines.
Miguel Aguilar, a worker at a Los Angeles car wash, thanked the governor for signing the bill.
"We work really long hours," said Aguilar, who has a union contract. "Now, with the increase in the minimum wage, we'll be able to sustain an income that can support our families."
Supporters said the bill by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, would help workers left behind during the recent recession.
"A higher minimum wage will mean much-needed money in the pockets of millions of workers in the state, and that's good news for businesses throughout California that will benefit from increased consumer spending," Gary Gerber, founder and CEO of Sun Light & Power in Berkeley, said in a statement.
In opposing the measure, Republican lawmakers said increased wages would encourage businesses to cut jobs and automate.