Employers in West Hollywood won a major victory early Tuesday morning as a majority of the City Council backed a smaller hike in the minimum wage to $12 an hour, rather than the $15 an hour backed by staff and enacted in the city and county of Los Angeles.
After a marathon meeting Monday night into Tuesday morning that featured more than 40 speakers – including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who made an impassioned plea for passage of the hike to $15 an hour by 2020 – three of the five councilmembers said they felt a 67 percent hike in five years was too much, too fast. Instead, they backed a proposal for a hike to $12 an hour.
The proposal by Councilman John D’Amico called for the hike to go into effect by July 1 of next year for businesses with more than 25 employees and by July 1, 2018 for smaller businesses and all nonprofits. It passed on a 3-2 vote.
“If we’re going to do this, we should do this more slowly and in a way that’s more reflective of the smaller cities in Los Angeles County, not like the county or Los Angeles,” D’Amico said.
The council vote was welcomed by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which earlier had urged the council to put off a vote so that more studies about the impact of a wage hike on local businesses could be conducted.
“This is a very exciting victory,” said Genevieve Morrill, the chamber’s executive director. “We were heard. Most of our business owners are liberals who are not opposed to increasing the minimum wage. It’s just that the L.A model – 67 percent increase in five years – is too much, too fast for small business to handle. We believe that what the council ultimately approved is something that our members can handle.”
But it represented a setback for Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti, who had urged the council to stick with the model adopted in his city.
“I’m here to urge you to join us,” Garcetti told the council. “When a region moves together, it’s one with a common wage level. We don’t have cities that pay less and don’t see good workers going there or other cities that jump forward and employers look to leave. Every single one of us benefits.”
There was some discussion of putting off a final vote on a wage increase until after there’s resolution on one or more statewide measures to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. One measure has already submitted signatures and is awaiting verification for the November ballot; another measure is still gathering signatures.
But, in the end, the council ordered staff to return within 60 days with a draft ordinance and to answer some of the many questions that have surfaced over the past 18 months that a minimum wage hike has been debated in the city.
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