October 09, 2014

 

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou

City News Service

 

Four members of the Los Angeles City Council recently proposed raising the citywide minimum wage to $13.25 an hour by 2017, and exploring the possibility of raising the wage to $15.25 an hour by 2019. The wage hike plan — authored by Mike Bonin, Gil Cedillo, Nury Martinez and Curren Price Jr. — mirrors Mayor Eric Garcetti's proposal for raising the minimum hourly wage in the city to $13.25 over the next three years, and to peg it to the consumer price index afterward. Under the motion seconded by Councilmen Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian, council committees would be tasked with studying how the city might increase the wage to $15.25 an hour, and potentially higher based on the cost-of-living index.

 

The authors said they are hoping a proposed ordinance comes before the full council by January. Cedillo introduced a parallel motion calling on the city attorney to include wage theft protection measures into any resulting minimum wage ordinance. Bonin, a former member of the advisory board of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a group pushing for a $15 minimum wage, said he is supportive of the idea of a $15.25 minimum wage.

 

On October 7 labor-affiliated groups, which include LAANE and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, rallied at City Hall, calling on the city to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and require employers to provide paid sick days and wage-theft protection. Representatives of the clergy, labor and community groups said 46 percent of workers in Los Angeles, or about 810,000 people, make less than $15 an hour, which isn’t enough to cover basic necessities.

 

“We see hard-working men and women running between two and three jobs, yet unable to keep pace with the escalating cost of living in Los Angeles,” said the Rev. Lewis Logan, a pastor at Ruach Christian Community Fellowship.

 

Albina Ardon makes $9 an hour at McDonald's and said she has little time for her children.

 

“My husband and me work, and the money that we get is not enough money, and sometimes we have to depend on public assistance,” she said.

 

While the $13.25 hourly minimum wage proposal “is a good start,” a $15 an hour wage is needed, she said. Ardon is part of a growing group of fast-food workers who are pushing for the $15 minimum wage. She was among dozens of school, garment and restaurant workers who turned out to urge council to support for the higher wage, as well as measures to enforce wage theft laws and paid sick days.

 

Following the motion’s introduction, the groups, including labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, issued a statement thanking the council “for taking a major step forward in the fight to end poverty in our communities.”

 

“Working families look forward to meeting with city leadership in the coming days to ensure that all Angelenos can share in the benefits of a growing economy,” the statement said.

 

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce opposes the mayor's proposed minimum-wage boost, saying it would result in job losses. Gary Toebben, the group’s president, said in a response to the council motion that any vote on the minimum wage proposal “a major economic decision” that council members “should take the time” to study. He urged council members to “reach out to businesses in their district to collect real examples of how this minimum wage proposal would affect employment in their district.” He contended a UC Berkeley study cited in the council motion “was written to support a conclusion already desired.”

 

“[This] motion and process should start with the facts and real conversations with businesses who would be impacted by this action, not simply employers whose salaries already exceed the minimum wage,” Toebben said.

 

The state minimum wage of $9 an hour is set to rise to $10 in January 2016, but for thousands of workers at non-union Los Angeles hotels with 300 or more rooms, the minimum wage is scheduled to jump to $15.37 an hour on July 1 under an ordinance approved by City Council. Hotels with at least 150 rooms will be required to match that raise, starting July 1, 2016. Garcetti joined Vice President Joe Biden recently at a roundtable discussion with business leaders in downtown Los Angeles to make a case for raising the minimum wage.

 

Biden repeated his call for a national minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, up from $7.25, and praised the work being done by Garcetti and the City Council toward raising the wage in Los Angeles.

 

“This is one of the great cities of the world and you’re stepping up,” Biden said.

 

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Mill­man said the mayor is thankful for City Council members picking up his minimum wage hike plan, saying it was vetted by “one of the most respected economists in the country on the minimum wage.”

 

That economist found that “as long as it doesn’t go faster or higher, this is the right amount and it will actually lead to more economic activity, help businesses and alleviate poverty for full-time working families in Los Angeles,” according to Millman.

 

The mayor will also work with council members “on various proposals to reform the business tax beyond the 10 percent cut” included in his budget proposal earlier this year, Millman said.

 

Garcetti has proposed cutting the business tax from $5.07 per $1,000 of gross receipts to $4.75 by Jan. 1, 2016, and to $4.25 by 2018.

Category: Business



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