Los Angeles City Council approves $15 an hour wage hike

Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Workers in Los Angeles are a step closer to a $15 an hour after City Council members approved a measure to increase the minimum wage. The ordinance, still to be approved by the mayor, would gradually raise minimum wage from $9 to $15 an hour by 2020.

The mayor, Eric Garcetti, has said that he would sign the wage hike bill into law. It would require businesses with more than 25 employees to gradually increase the minimum wage to meet $15 an hour by 2020. Business with fewer employees would have an extra year to comply with the measure.

Los Angeles is now the largest city to adopt major a minimum-wage increase, joining three others that have passed similar legislation: Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle. The move puts pressure on other large urban centers, such as New York, to do the same.

The measure would affect the finances of 800,000 people. Based on a 40-hour workweek, the raise would amount to an additional $48 a week per worker, or approximately $2,000 a year before taxes for the next five years.

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With the bill’s advance through the local legislature and the mayor’s pledge to support its passage in law, labor and community groups who petitioned aggressive for the wage hikes are calling it a victory.

"After months of public debate and study, the City Council's vote puts us one step away from changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of hardworking Angelenos," Rusty Hicks of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor said in a written statement. "Though there is still work to be done, all of us in Los Angeles will see the fruits of raising the wage in L.A.”

Some business owners are opposed to the wage increase, arguing it places an “undue burden on businesses.”

They are asking businesses to foot the bill on a social experiment that they would never do on their own employees,” Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association trade group, told the New York Times.

A lot of businesses aren’t going to make it. It’s great that this is an increase for some employees, but the sad truth is that a lot of employees are going to lose their jobs.

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When the Los Angeles bill was first voted on in May, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project said about the organizing efforts, “These are the foot soldiers in the Fight for $15, who in increasing numbers are taking to the streets to demand decent wages and organizing rights.

Tens of millions of workers across America – 42 percent of the workforce – struggle to get by on less than $15 an hour.

Owens said the fight began in small town in SeaTac, Washington in late 2012, and has spread to Seattle and San Francisco and is being embraced by employers like Facebook and Aetna.

The federal minimum wage is at $7.25 an hour, where it has remained since 2009, and supporters of raising pay for the lowest paid workers have expressed little hope for an increase from the Republican-controlled Congress.