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Pasadena Workers Get Another Raise In Minimum Wage

Supporters of raising Pasadena's minimum wage turned out for a Monday vote on the issue at City Hall. (David Wagner/LAist)
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Pasadena's City Council voted on Monday to keep raising the city's minimum wage at a faster pace than the state requires.

The decision came after conflicting, and at times heated presentations from two University of California economists in a meeting that lasted more than five hours.

In his presentation, UCLA economist Ed Leamer projected Pasadena restaurants would lose jobs if the city stays on track to reach a $15 minimum wage by July 2020 -- a year and half ahead of the state.

UC Berkeley economist Michael Reich said evidence from other cities suggests a different likely outcome: workers will take home more money without employment taking a hit.

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Read more about the last wage hike: Here's What Happened When Pasadena Raised Its Minimum Wage

But there was pushback from some local business owners who said rosy forecasts didn't capture their experience since wages started going up 2016.

"With all due respect to the profound minds behind us," said Armen Shirvanian, co-owner of an Italian restaurant called Mi Piace. "We don't engage in colored charts or pie charts or graphs. We engage in the reality of running a business every day."

The minimum wage has been a hot issue across the nation. Just four years ago, California workers started at a minimum of $9 an hour. Now employers with 25 or more workers must pay at least $12 an hour.

Even before Pasadena officials boosted it again, the city's current minimum wage of $13.25 is already higher than the state's. Pasadena's efforts to accelerate raises put local workers on par with those in the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica, along with the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said Monday -- ahead of a vote that drew applause from many gathered -- that he did not see strong evidence raising wages was hurting local business. Tornek said opponents' objections were familiar.

"You'll remember that many of the arguments -- that we did not believe at the time -- were the same arguments then," Tornek said. "That if we adopted this minimum wage, it was too aggressive, we'd see wholesale damage to our local business community. In fact that hasn't happened."

The Monday vote means that starting in July, Pasadena employers with more than 25 workers will be required to pay $14.25 an hour, a pay hike of $1 an hour from the current minimum.

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