LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles City Council today approved a $15 minimum wage for hundreds of thousands of workers in the city who currently earn $9 per hour, with the first raise in 2016.
The wage would increase incrementally beginning in July 2016, eventually reaching $15 an hour by 2020 for employers with 26 or more workers, with a one-year delay for smaller businesses.
The council voted 14-1 in favor of raising the minimum wage, with Councilman Mitchell Englander — the panel’s only Republican and a candidate for the county Board of Supervisors — casting the dissenting vote. The City Attorney’s Office will draft a wage-hike ordinance that will have to return to the council for a final vote.
The council’s vote was met with loud cheers and applause from a packed audience in the council chamber.
Councilman Paul Krekorian called wage hike “a reason to celebrate,” as it would be “giving a raise to 700,000 people who are living at the bottom.”
Councilman Mike Bonin said the higher wage would address “a cancer in the city of Los Angeles called poverty.”
Los Angeles resident Vickey Vaughn-Wright told the council the $15 wage would mean a “brighter future” for her family and community.
“Many of my family members are affected by this,” Vaughn-Wright said. “I feel that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would give hope of a better life for many of those who are struggling.”
The wage hike comes after more than eight months of debate three studies were done to analyze the economic effects of a wage hike, but some council members acknowledged that there will be some uncertainties.
Councilman Paul Koretz said the wage hike plan is “an experiment.”
“If anyone tells you they know exactly how this is going to go … I don’t think they’re being honest with you,” he said.
But Koretz said he was ultimately “willing to take that shot, because nobody can live well in Los Angeles … on $9 an hour.”
Councilman Curren Price, who pushed for the wage hike, said it is a “moral obligation” and a “leap of faith … led by our hearts and led by the facts that we have to do all we can to address poverty and income inequality in this city.”
Businesses with 25 or fewer employees would have until 2021 to reach the $15-an-hour mark.
Once the wage reaches $15 per hour for both small and large employers, the proposal calls for the minimum wage in 2022 to continue increasing based on the cost of living.
The proposed wage hikes would move at a slower pace than Mayor Eric Garcetti’s original proposal to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 per hour by 2017, but it would go further by increasing the wage to $15 by 2020.
There are some exceptions to the wage hike. Workers 14-17 years old would be paid 85 percent of the city minimum wage or the state wage, whichever is higher.
Nonprofits with 25 workers or more would also be eligible to apply for a waiver from the city minimum wage if the top executive earns less than five times of the lowest-paid worker, if the nonprofit provides transitional jobs, if it is a child care provider or if is mostly funded by government grants or reimbursements.
The council also voted in favor of monitoring the effects of the wage increase, particularly on certain industries such as textile and apparel manufacturing, temps, guards and janitors, home health care services, residential care and nursing facilities, restaurants and others.
The City Council will continue to study provisions that would require employers to provide paid leave benefits to workers, and to require that service charges be passed on to the employee who performed the services.