Bundles of petitions were carted Friday into Los Angeles City Hall by members of a coalition pushing for city leaders to raise the minimum wage to $15.25 per hour in Los Angeles.
The Raise the Wage coalition presented petitions containing about 100,000 signatures and urged the City Council to adopt the wage hike proposal now being debated.
Laphonza Butler, co-chair of Raise the Wage and president of SEIU California, SEIU-ULTCW, told the council that about 700,000 Los Angeles residents who earn below a $15 minimum wage “are waiting for you to act to raise the wage and to enforce it with sick days.”
Rusty Hicks, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, who also is a co-chair, called on the council to adopt a wage hike plan “with no loopholes” to address the challenges facing low-paid workers and those living in poverty in Los Angeles.
“We ask that you answer that call, step forward and pass a comprehensive policy, $15 an hour, as soon as possible, (with) strong wage enforcement and earned sick days in the city of L.A.,” he said.
The council is considering Mayor Eric Garcetti’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 per hour by 2017, as well as a more ambition plan supported by some members to raise the wage to $15.25 per hour by 2019. Both proposals would peg the minimum wage to cost of living increases in the years after the hikes are reached.
Some members of the council are pushing an exception for tipped workers, who they say often already earn at least $15 per hour once tips are included, but supporters of an across-the-board wage hike say it is illegal under state law to count tips towards meeting the minimum wage.
Council members Mitch O’Farrell and Bob Blumenfield, both supporters of the exception, sent a letter to City Attorney Mike Feuer today asking him to consider a legal opinion that says the exception for tipped workers could be achieved using the city’s existing legal authorities.
The City Council’s Economic Development Committee will take up the two minimum wage hike proposals on Tuesday.
The panel will also take up a peer assessment by UCLA and University of Georgia economists on three studies done by the city, labor unions and business group representatives on the economic impacts of the wage hike proposal.
The peer reviewers found that a study by the UC Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment was the most “thorough and carefully implemented” of the studies.
Berkeley’s report still does not resolve some “uncertainties” about how the hike would affect the local economy, the reviewers said.
One of the uncertainties comes out of the “large” scale of the wage increase, which reviewers said is “large both in terms of the proportion of the labor force impacted, and in terms of the size of the increase.”
Other uncertainties stem from the “complex geography of adjacent municipalities and counties,” and the “potential long-term effects,” the economists said.
The reviewers said the Berkeley study does a better job of predicting the impacts of a $13.25 per hour wage, and is less convincing on the $15.25 per hour wage, the reviewers said.
“If the debate were over raising the minimum wage to $13.25 per hour by 2017, we would argue that the Berkeley-IRLE estimated impacts are the most likely scenario, partly because this size of increase is represented in previous estimates of the effect of minimum wages on employment,” the reviewers said. “Confidence in predictions of the effect of the larger increase to $15.25 per hour by 2019 is necessarily lower, given the longer time period and the larger increase in the minimum wage relative to most previous experience.”
The peer review also suggests that whether the city chooses to adopt a $13.25 per hour wage or a $15.25 hour wage, city leaders should “follow the example of other city minimum wage ordinances and monitor the economic situation in the city.”
“An effective system of monitoring requires timely data collection of firms and workers who are most affected by the law, and measures of the effects on worker income and firm profits,” the peer economists said.
Programs to help workers and employers affected by the wage hike should also be made available “should the benefits of the proposed increase in the minimum wage be lower or the adverse effects larger than anticipated,” they said.
— City News Service
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