The Los Angeles City Council decided to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles to $15 an hour by 2020 from the current $9. The became a significant victory for labor and community groups that have pushed for similar pay hikes in several U.S. municipalities.
The council voted 14-1 on the measure, which must come back before the panel for final approval. It would require businesses with more than 25 employees to meet the $15 pay level by 2020, while smaller businesses would have an extra year to comply.
Officials said the plan, which comes on the heels of similar minimum wage hikes in other major cities including Seattle and San Francisco, would increase pay of an estimated 800,000 workers in the city.
“We are embarking upon, I think, the most progressive minimum wage policy anywhere in the country,” City Councilman Curren Price Jr., one of the main backers of the proposal, said before the vote.
“This is a game changer,” Tsedeye Gebreselassie, a senior staff attorney at the wage advocacy group National Employment Law Project, told reporters. “L.A. is such a huge city, and it’ll have a national impact on the normalization of $15 as the minimum wage.”
“With the federal minimum wage stagnant at $7.25 an hour since 2009, labor and religious groups have increasingly pressed local governments in liberal-leaning areas to enact their own minimum wage hikes even as their hopes dim for an increase from the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress,” Reuters explains.
The significant wage increase would be implemented step by step, starting at $10.50 an hour for larger employers in 2016, and gradually going up each year until it becomes $15 in 2020.
Companies which have less than 25 employees would follow a slightly slower stepped-up increase in minimum wage pay.
Opponents of minimum wage hikes, such as Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce senior vice president of public policy Ruben Gonzalez, soppose that the new measure would force workers to lay off workers or move.
“There is simply not enough room, enough margin in these businesses to absorb a 50-plus percent increase in labor costs over a short period of time,” he told the city council.
“A lot of businesses are going to struggle,” Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, added. “There’s a lot of employees are going to get raises, but there’s also some employees that are going to lose their jobs.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who last year voiced his support for a pay increase that would have brought the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017, said in a statement that he planned to sign the council’s measure.
“It’s highlighted for the American public that raising wages isn’t just about helping workers and making sure people who are struggling to have enough to get by,” Gebreselassie said. “It’s to address income inequality and have truly meaningful economic recovery.”
“People like me, who work hard for multibillion-dollar corporations like McDonald’s, should not have to rely on food stamps to survive,” Albina Ardon, a 29-year-old mother of two who works at a McDonald’s in Los Angeles, said in a statement sent by a Fight for $15 spokeswoman. “My life would be completely different if I were paid $14 an hour. I could afford groceries without needing food stamps, my family could stop sharing our apartment with renters for extra money, and I’d be able to provide my daughters with some security.”