Amid a national discussion over economic inequality and following months of heated debate, Los Angeles is poised to dramatically hike the citywide minimum wage.
A unanimous vote Wednesday by the seven-member Economic Development Committee laid out a series of increases over five years. Hourly pay would reach $10.50 next year, $12 by 2017, $13.25 by 2018 and $14.25 by 2019 under the plan.
By 2020, wages in Los Angeles would reach $15.
The full Los Angeles City Council is expected to approve the plan next week.
South Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, who led Wednesday’s vote by recalling his working-class childhood, called the package of pay hikes approved by the panel a “historic minimum-wage policy.”
“This is dramatic; this is huge,” agreed City Council President Herb Wesson, whose office helped shepherd the deal through the council.
With Wednesday’s vote, Los Angeles is set to follow cities such as San Francisco and Seattle that have also recently raised wages. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced plans to raise wages for employees at fast-food restaurants.
The hearing settled months of back and forth over the city’s minimum wage and came amid competing proposals to hike pay.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed raising wages to $13.25 by 2017, while other Los Angeles City Council members sought to reach $15.25 by 2019.
Garcetti’s office had no official comment Wednesday following the vote. Mayoral spokesman Jeff Millman said the Mayor’s Office is reviewing the council committee’s proposal.
A few hundred people filled the Los Angeles City Council chambers Wednesday for the vote, a split of workers and business owners. The crowd was markedly smaller than previous hearings because City Council members gave just a day’s notice on the hearing.
Speaker Brenda Smith told the panel she had eight children and her wages weren’t keeping up with the cost of living.
“Milk is $4 a gallon,” Smith said.
Several studies commissioned by the city offered contradictory summaries of a wage hike’s effects. A study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley found the impact on overall employment following a $13.25 minimum wage by 2017 “is not likely to be significant,” while analysis by Beacon Economics predicted “significant negative effects.”
The city’s current minimum wage, which follows the state rate, is $9 an hour. Next year, California’s minimum wage rises to $10.
Some restaurant groups asked the City Council to create a new law counting tips as part of hourly earnings. Officials said Wednesday that state law forbids them from creating such a rule.
However, the city committee did make exceptions for smaller businesses and nonprofits: Those groups will have an extra year to phase in the new wages under the proposal.
Some groups left City Hall disappointed by Wednesday’s vote, including those who wanted higher wages on a shorter deadline.
“We wanted $15 by 2017,” said Giselle Mata, a member of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “There’s still work to do.”
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