West Hollywood

WeHo City Council to Vote on Minimum Wage Hike

If passed, the $17.64 minimum wage would be the highest minimum wage rate in the United States.

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The West Hollywood City Council is set to vote on increasing the minimum wage in the city to $17.64 an hour in a Wednesday night meeting. If the ordinance passes, it will be the highest minimum wage rate in the United States.

But not everyone in WeHo is happy about the idea, with some local business owners concerned about increased costs.

The wage hike was initially proposed as a raise to the minimum wage for just hotel workers. At Monday's city council meeting, however, councilmembers proposed raising the wage for all workers in West Hollywood.

The proposal the council will vote for or against Wednesday at 6 p.m. states that hotel workers will see the increased wage first, with the $17.64 per hour rate going into effect for those employees on Jan. 1, 2022.

Then, roughly six months later on July 1, all other employees in WeHo will see the increase.

The city has a large hotel and restaurant industry along the Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevard corridors.

Several restaurants and bars in WeHo were shut down, and others are still trying to make up for the slump caused by the pandemic.

Some of those business owners are worried that the hike will impact them negatively, especially as they try to recover from those shutdowns over the past year.

"It's a 30% wage increase," said Cary Mosier, owner of Gracias Madre, a restaurant in the city. "It's already a challenge to operate a restaurant under normal circumstances."

"Now, they're jacking up the labor costs, and we're still operating on borrowed money from the government, dealing with capacity issues and all the challenges of the pandemic," he continued.

But the city argues that $17.64 is really just a living minimum wage, badly needed for individuals who work 40 hours each week and need to get the basics in life.

The state of California has a current minimum wage of $13 an hour for employers with 25 employees or fewer. For employers with 26 employees or more, it's $14 an hour.

That's higher than the federal minimum wage requirement of $7.25 an hour mandated by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

That federal law also states an employer of a tipped employee is only required to pay $2.13 an hour in direct wages if the rest of the $7.25 is made up in tips; if the tips don't meet that, the employer has to pay the difference, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

West Hollywood's $17.64 minimum wage, like California's minimum wage of $13 to $14, would apply to all employees, including those who get tips.

If the ordinance is approved, WeHo's minimum wage will increase to keep pace with inflation costs to workers every year on July 1.

The ordinance also states that all employees should get "96 hours of paid leave time for sickness, vacation, or personal necessity, and an additional 80 hours of uncompensated sick leave."

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