California's third-largest employer just gave its workers a raise.
The University of California on Wednesday announced it will bump minimum wage for employees and contract workers to $15 an hour.
It will become the first public-university system in the country to have such a high minimum wage. But the decision didn't happen in an isolated ivory tower.
U.C.L.A. — the system's largest school and one of its most highly regarded — sits in Los Angeles County. L.A. County, which happens to be the nation's most populous, just agreed to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour in unincorporated communities by 2020. The city of Los Angeles passed a similar proposal earlier this year, and further north, voters in San Francisco approved a measure to gradually raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour.
While U.C. President and former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement that raising the minimum wage is the "right thing" to do, it's also politically smart.
The state's Senate approved a bill to increase the minimum wage from $9 to $13 an hour by 2017, and labor activists have repeatedly criticized the U.C. system for failing to pay living wages to workers. The university system is also taking heat for opposing a bill that would require it to verify that contractors offer employees compensation and benefits comparable to what U.C. employees doing similar work get. Raising the wage is a proactive, feel-good move that makes the university system look good. It also won't cost that much money.