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City Council Isn't So Sure About The Plan To Hike Los Angeles' Minimum Wage

Waiters will likely benefit from the wage hike (Photo by neonspecs via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Los Angeles rents are rapidly rising. And though our rents don't compete with San Francisco, DC and New York, it turns out we still have the most unaffordable housing in the nation because our wages lag behind those other cities. So it seems in some ways that Mayor Eric Garcetti's plan to hike the minimum wage to $13.25 three years from now would be a no-brainer.

But some members of the City Council want the city to slow its roll. Mitch O'Farrell, the councilman for District 13 that covers Hollywood to Westlake, put forward a motion along with Councilman Bob Blumenfield, asking the city to conduct a study on the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage to something that is not quite a living wage. He'd like to explore the possibility of exempting small businesses and nonprofits from the proposal. KPCC notes that the study would have the effect of slowing down the city's push toward hiking wages. Felipe Fuentes, Paul Krekorian and Nury Martinez seconded the motion.

In a statement, O'Farrell said that he's concerned about the hike's effect on small businesses: "I am a strong supporter of our business community, especially our small business owners. Many of them already exist at the margins, and it is our obligation to explore every consequence, because there's too much at stake in our economy."

He told The Los Angeles Daily News that he spoke with 30 businesses throughout his district: "I haven't talked to one single business owner that has said they wouldn’t have to reduce staff."

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Blumenfield says that he's worried about whether nonprofits like Valley Village, which serves the developmentally disabled, would be able to continue providing the same level of service if wages for workers increased.

The Chamber of Commerce praised the proposal as did the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which is seeking a $15 minimum wage.

Earlier this month, other council members—Mike Bonin, Nury Martinez, Curren Price and Gil Cedillo—put forward a motion that would go even further than Garcetti's plan and slowly increase the minimum wage to $15.25 by 2019. KPCC says that right now, the city's Economic Development Committee is considering it and a vote hasn't been scheduled. The council hopes to have a bill for the mayor to sign by January.

O’Farrell told the Daily News he doesn’t believe the council "should be in a mad rush to complete a study just to make a deadline that’s been articulated."

Some of the biggest neighboring cities, like Pasadena, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, are considering hiking their wages, too. That would mean that employers would have fewer places to go just outside city limits to avoid increased labor costs.

Cities, not the federal government, appear to the be the future for substantial minimum wage hikes. San Franciscans will have the chance next month to vote on a similar proposal that should raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018. We're all watching to see what happens in Seattle where the minimum wage is on track to reach $15 by 2018. Employers say that they expect to downsize, reduce workers' hours or pass on costs to consumers. In Santa Fe, where the minimum wage was hiked to $8.50, there's a belief that the city is losing business to Albuquerque but those claims have been hard to prove or disprove, the Washington Post reports. Then again, sometimes employers have a habit of overblowing anything that would increase their costs. Connecticut employers said the same thing about a law mandating everyone get sick hours, and they found their fears were unfounded and the law actually had some positive benefits: improved morale, reduced turnover and healthier workers.

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