Minimum Wage Ordinance Tentatively Approved By Los Angeles City Council

The ordinance will return for a final vote next week because the vote was not unanimous

An ordinance that would boost Los Angeles' minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020, making it the biggest city nationwide to do so, was tentatively approved in a 13-1 vote Wednesday by the City Council.

The Council gave its tentative support to the measure last month in a preliminary vote and reviewed the language of the law before Wednesday's vote. The ordinance will return for a final vote next Wednesday because the vote was not unanimous.

Councilman Mitchell Englander cast the dissenting vote. Englander, also voted against the wage increase in last month's preliminary vote, did not speak during Wednesday's debate.

If given final approval and signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, the city, with 3.8 million residents, would become the biggest in the country with a $15 minimum wage.

"Today is a historic day in the City of Los Angeles," Garcetti said in a statement Wednesday. "With this vote, the minimum wage will no longer be a poverty wage in Los Angeles. I want to thank the City Council for joining me in building a city that provides greater opportunity and possibility for all of our residents."

Under the proposed ordinance, the city minimum wage would increase to $10.50 per hour in July 2016 for businesses with 26 or more employees, with a one-year delay for smaller businesses. By 2016, the state minimum wage will have risen to $10 per hour.

The wage would 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 ultimately to $15 by July 2020.

Businesses with 25 or fewer employees would start raising their wages one year later and have until 2021 to reach the $15-an-hour mark.

Once the wage reaches $15 per hour for both small and large employers, the ordinance calls for the minimum wage in 2022 to continue increasing based on the cost of living.

Even if the ordinance is Wednesday, city leaders are expected to continue debating potential tweaks to the law, such as a proposed exemption from the $15 minimum wage for workers covered under collective bargaining agreements. Labor leaders who led the campaign to raise the minimum wage are pushing for inclusion of this exemption from the wage for their own union members.

Business leaders who had opposed the wage increase have lashed back at the labor groups, saying the same people who had wanted the minimum wage hike in Los Angeles now want to exclude their own union members from the proposed law. They pointed to Seattle's $15 minimum wage law, which does not have an exemption for unionized workers.

Hundreds of supporters are expected to rally at City Hall ahead of Wednesday's vote.

The City Council is also expected to consider including a requirement for employers to provide paid leave to workers, and a provision that would require that employers pass service charges onto the employee who perform the task.

Homeboy Industries, a group that runs transitional employment programs, is also urging the City Council to give it a reprieve from the city wage over the 18 month-duration of their program.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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