A City Council committee could finally vote Friday on whether to advance an ordinance to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles to $15 per hour, following a flurry of last minute lobbying efforts by local labor and business leaders over an exemption for unionized workers from the proposed law.
Details about the law’s language have yet to be finalized, even though the Los Angeles City Council last week gave its tentative support to the measure.
The release of a draft of the minimum wage ordinance last Friday prompted labor leaders to push for inclusion of a provision that would exempt workers covered under collective bargaining agreements with their employers.
Labor officials said this provision is a “standard” part of wage laws in many other cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and San Diego, and they had expected that it would also be in Los Angeles’s law.
They contend the provision is aimed at respecting the existing collective bargaining agreements, and it would give employers and workers wiggle room to reach the best labor agreement for both sides.
However, business leaders who had opposed the wage increase, lashed back at the labor groups, saying the same people who had wanted the minimum wage hike in Los Angeles now want to exclude their own union members from the proposed law. They pointed to Seattle’s $15 minimum wage law, which does not have an exemption for unionized workers.
Despite labor’s efforts this week, the wage law that could be advanced by the Economic Development Committee today will likely leave out this exemption provision, which has little support from key members of the panel.
Council President Herb Wesson, who leads the City Council and also sits on the committee, issued a statement Thursday saying that he plans to ask the committee to table the exemption idea so that it can be further studied. This decision came after criticism that this potential provision was being brought up at the last minute.
Other members of the committee — including Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Paul Koretz — also support moving ahead with the ordinance without this exemption. Mayor Eric Garcetti also said this week that he would like more study of the idea.
But with the first wage hike expected to go into effect July 2016, there is still time for tweaks to work their way back into the minimum wage law, including the proposed union exemption and another to require that employers provide paid sick leave.
The ordinance being considered Friday would increase the wage beginning July 2016, when it would rise to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees. By then, the state wage will have risen to $10 per hour.
The city minimum wage would then go up to $12 an hour by July 2017, $13.25 per hour by July 2018, $14.25 per hour by July 2019 and ultimately to $15 by July 2020.
Businesses with 25 or fewer employees would start raising their wages one year later and have until 2021 to reach the $15-an-hour mark.
Once the wage reaches $15 per hour for both small and large employers, the ordinance calls for the minimum wage in 2022 to continue increasing based on the cost of living.
—City News Service