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Sunday, Sep 24, 2023

Business Groups Close Gap in Living Wage Campaign

Business Groups Close Gap in Living Wage Campaign


Staff Reporter

Proposition JJ, Santa Monica’s coastal zone living wage ordinance that once was expected to pass overwhelmingly, could be in for a tough time this November.

Opponents say that nearly doubling wages for employees places an unreasonable burden on employers in the coastal zone and will result in reduced hours or even layoffs.

Proponents plan to make the case that minimum wage workers are a drain on social services and that the large hotels on the shoreline can easily afford to pay their workers more.

While the measure is still likely to pass, the final tally may be close. And if the turnout on Nov. 5 is lower than expected, it’s conceivable that the measure could be defeated.

Proposition JJ contains the coastal zone living wage ordinance that was approved by the City Council in July 2001. Opponents of that ordinance invoked a rarely used provision in the city’s bylaws that allows a challenge period of 30 days to put any ordinance to the voters.

The measure would require businesses in Santa Monica’s coastal zone with more than $5 million in revenues to pay employees at least $10.50 an hour with benefits and $12.25 an hour without benefits, starting next July 1. The wage requirements would be adjusted annually according to the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index. The current statewide minimum wage is $6.75 an hour.

The coastal zone includes everything west of 4th Street; in places, it extends several blocks east of 4th Street.

Estimates of how many businesses would be impacted range from as few as 40 (the number put forward by proponents) to more than 100 (the figure used by opponents).

Unlike the campaign two years ago around the living wage countermeasure in which Santa Monica’s business community spent upwards of $1 million business opponents have so far raised only $400,000 to $450,000. Living wage proponents say they’ve raised less than $200,000.

Both sides say they plan to concentrate their limited resources on door-to-door get-out-the-vote efforts.

“The message we’re going to bring to voters is that this a particularly bad time to impose these additional burdens on business and on the city,” said Tom Larmore, partner in the Santa Monica law firm of Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal.

Proponents plan to make reference to the numerous corporate scandals that have made the headlines in recent months.

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