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Proposals to exempt nonprofit businesses, seasonal workers and some employees in training from Los Angeles County’s pending minimum wage ordinance failed Tuesday to garner the three votes needed from the Board of Supervisors to pass.

The ordinance as drafted will raise the minimum wage in unincorporated areas to $15 an hour by 2020 and give businesses with 25 or fewer employees an additional year to reach that $15 hourly pay rate.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich recommended the exemption for nonprofits and seasonal workers.

“While the stated goal of increasing the minimum wage is to bring people out of poverty, there are unintended consequences,” Antonovich said.

Antonovich told his colleagues the higher wage could hurt small nonprofit agencies, limiting their ability to help those in need. He said seasonal workers are often teens who aren’t supporting a family and that higher wages could result in fewer hours.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said it “doesn’t seem fair” for younger workers, just starting out, to be paid less.

The vote on the proposed exemption was 2-3, with only Supervisor Don Knabe joining Antonovich in support.

Knabe proposed an exemption for trainees, citing successful efforts by organizations like Homeboy Industries, Chrysalis and the L.A. Conservation Corps to train the chronically homeless, former gang members and at-risk youth.

If forced to pay the minimum wage, nonprofits might be forced to limit the number of participants in such programs, he said.

Knabe’s proposal was also voted down 2-3, with Antonovich offering the other “yes” vote.

The board initially approved the county wage hike on July 21. A series of increases are planned over five years, beginning July 1, 2016, and reaching $15 an hour by 2020. The wage will go to $10.50 in July 2016, $12 in July 2017, $13.25 in July 2018, $14.25 in July 2019, and then to $15 the following year.

The hike will also mirror the city of Los Angeles minimum wage by delaying the increase by one year for businesses with fewer than 26 employees.

After 2022, the wage will be adjusted annually based on the cost of living.

Knabe opposed tying the minimum wage to a cost-of-living index, saying it amounted to trying to solve the problem of poverty “on the back of small businesses.”

Labor leaders argued that a higher wage would help businesses.

“The more money that we put into our constituents’ pockets, the more money that they are going to spend,” said Jacqueline Mejia of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

The board formally approved implementation of the wage increase as a matter of board policy on a 4-1 vote, with Antonovich dissenting.

After county attorneys made minor adjustments to the ordinance to reflect technical changes — like the index used to calculate the cost of living — the board voted 3-2 to put the ordinance on a future agenda for formal adoption.

Knabe and Antonovich cast the dissenting votes.

— City News Service 

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