Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A Los Angeles City Council committee will hold a public hearing in Watts Thursday night to talk about a proposal to raise the minimum wage to as high as $15.25 per hour by 2019.

The Economic Development Committee hearing is one of several meetings being held around the city over the next week to give the public a chance to weigh in on the plan. Meetings are also scheduled for March 31 at 6 p.m. at Van Nuys City Hall, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., and April 2 at 6 p.m. at the Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd.

The City Council is debating a proposal to raise the minimum wage from $9 an hour to $13.25 an hour by 2017, to $15.25 an hour by 2019, and higher levels in subsequent years based on the Consumer Price Index.

Supporters of the wage hike proposal say it will lift hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers out of poverty and that businesses are capable of absorbing the increased costs, while critics of the plan say it would drive businesses out of the city and slow job growth.

Some business groups are urging the City Council to make some exceptions for certain employers, such as small businesses, nonprofits and employers of teen workers. They are also asking city officials to consider creating different rules for workers who receive tips, such as restaurant waiters, and who, as a result, earn more than their minimum wages.

Groups pushing for the minimum wage hike are calling on the City Council to adopt the largest possible hike — to $15.25 rather than raising it only to $13.25 as proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. The groups are also pushing for the measure to include provisions that require employers to give their workers paid time off and to set up a wage enforcement bureau to ensure that, if a higher minimum wage is adopted, businesses would adhere to them.

The committee met earlier this week to hear presentations on three studies of the economic effects of the minimum wage proposal.

A city-commissioned study done by UC Berkeley had mostly positive findings. Researchers determined that the benefits would outweigh the negative effects. While the wage hike would prompt businesses to pass costs onto customers, driving down consumer demand, this would be offset by $2.381 billion added to workers wages by 2019, which is expected to have a multiplier effects on spending, according to the UC Berkeley researchers.

The UC Berkeley report also points out that 80 percent the workers affected would be people of color, and the wage increase would affect more than half of Latino workers in the city. The 600,000 workers who would see their wages go up by 2019 make up about 40 percent of the Los Angeles workforce, the report said.

The Beacon Economics report — funded by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce — contends the wage hike to $13.25 per hour would slow job growth by killing an anticipated 73,000 to 140,000 new jobs.

A labor-funded report released by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and done by the Economic Roundtable, argues that the wage hike would result in $5.9 billion in added income for about 700,000 workers in Los Angeles and create more than 46,000 additional jobs.

—Staff and wire reports

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