The Los Angeles City Council has voted 14-1 on Tuesday to increase the city’s minimum wage from $9 to $15 an hour by 2020.
Under the plan, pay will gradually increase for the lowest paid workers over the next five years and reach the top mark by 2020 for larger employers.
The increase comes as labor organizers and workers across the country are demanding higher wages. Several cities, including San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Oakland, California, have approved increases, and dozens more are considering taking the same action.
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The measure in Los Angeles was approved by the council's Economic Development Committee last week, and will initially boost the wage in July 2016 from $9 to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees.
It will then go up to $12 an hour by July 2017, $13.25 per hour by July 2018, $14.25 per hour by July 2019 and finally reach the top rate in 2020.
An allowance has been made for employers with 25 or fewer employees, as they would not have to pay $15 per hour until 2021.
Once parity is achieved for both small and large employers the proposal calls for the minimum wage to continue increasing based on average cost-of-living increases over the past 20 years.
The planned increases are implemented at a slower pace than a similar proposal made by Mayor Eric Garcetti. Under his plan the minimum wage would go up to $13.25 per hour by 2017. It would however go further than Garcetti's plan by increasing the wage to $15 by 2020.
Some council member have advocated for the higher wage rate and want a $15.25 per hour minimum wage to be reached by 2019, a year earlier than the one recommended by the committee.
"It doesn't take a study to tell you what it feels like to be poor," said Councilwoman Nury Martinez.
The slower pace of the proposed increases could be seen as a victory for business groups that complained that a faster increase would be a burden for business owners who might be forced to lay off workers.
"There is simply not enough room, enough margin for these businesses to absorb 50 percent plus increase in labor costs over a short period of time," said Ruben Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
They also called for exceptions to be made for teenagers, employees of nonprofit organizations and workers who receive tips, as well as participants in temporary transitional programs that serve those just released from jail, the homeless and others who face challenges in finding jobs.
In contrast, supporters of a $15 minimum wage hike plan said the committee's proposal is too slow.
The plan will now move to the City Attorney's office for an ordinance to be written and will return to the council for final approval.
City News Service contributed to this report