FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --The effort to further increase California's minimum wage received a big boost from Fresno workers.
Healthcare and fast food workers collected boxes full of voter signatures to try to get "The Fair Wage Act of 2016" on the November ballot. It would raise the state minimum wage to $11 in 2017 all the way up to $15 an hour in 2021. SEIU-UHW member Dora Alvarez said, "People at $10 an hour make $21,000 annually. That's not enough to even make the basic needs."
Alvarez explained union workers helped collect 619,000 signatures and will turn them into county registrars around the state.
Many of the workers who gathered at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Fresno saw their pay increase to $10 an hour but still struggle. Fast food worker Mai Moua said, "I can't get a good education because I can't buy text books for college."
But January's minimum wage has forced many valley restaurants and even the Chaffee Zoo to raise prices. Mike Der Manouel, Jr. runs the Der Manouel Insurance Group. He said, "It affects my customers and the only thing they can do is pass that along to the consumer."
Der Manouel added the push for a higher minimum wage was a bad idea when it comes to job creation. "A lot of big cities that have leaped ahead on this issue are feeling the pinch of job losses. I've never understood why people continue to push for a higher minimum wage when they know it does economic damage to the very people that they're intending to help."
Alvarez said only 366,000 signatures were needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
Elections officials have until March to determine if the Fair Wage Act will make the November ballot.