As goes Los Angeles, so goes Pasadena.
That’s the hope of a coalition of religious, labor and community groups in Pasadena, which has begun pushing a “living wage” ordinance similar to the salary-boosting law passed in April by the L.A. City Council.
In fact, the Pasadena proposal is even wider-ranging than its L.A. counterpart.
Under a draft being considered by the Pasadena City Council, companies that contract with the city would be required to pay their workers $8.50 an hour with benefits or $11 an hour without benefits. That compares to wage requirements in L.A. of $7.25 an hour with benefits or $8.50 an hour without.
The Pasadena proposal also would apply to firms that receive more than $5,000 a year in financial assistance from the city a considerably lower threshold than the $100,000 limit specified by the L.A. law.
Backers of the Pasadena living wage ordinance also hope to extend its scope to include people on workfare assigned to jobs in Pasadena.
At a meeting late last month, the Pasadena City Council voted 5-0, with two members absent, to direct the city manager’s office to study the proposal submitted by the coalition and issue a report on its likely financial impact.
“The Los Angeles (ordinance) created a dialogue over the appropriateness of paying a living wage,” said Linda Lotz, one of the coalition’s organizers. “It seems that the Pasadena City Council has heard that dialogue and is now saying, ‘OK, how do we bring this to our town?'”
It remains unclear how many firms and workers would be affected by the law or how much it would cost the city. The city manager’s office estimates that about 40 city contractors may have employees with wages below the so-called “living” wage.
City Councilman Paul Little said he agreed with the living wage proposal in concept. But he added that the ordinance may be too ambitious in its current form.
“How is it going to impact the ability of our city to provide services?” he asked. “What is the impact going to be financially? We have to look at it at from all sides.”
The Los Angeles living wage ordinance sparked a heated battle between the labor and community groups which backed the proposal and members of the city’s business community including Mayor Richard Riordan who argued that the law would drive businesses out of L.A. and place added strains on the city’s budget. The measure eventually passed after the city council overrode a mayoral veto.
So far, no such debate has emerged in Pasadena, city officials say, although it is still early in the process.
Pasadena Chamber of Commerce officials had no immediate comment on the proposal, and the L.A.-Area Chamber of Commerce, which led the battle against the ordinance in L.A., has no plans to get involved in Pasadena, according to chamber spokesman Mark Giberson.
Other U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Minneapolis, San Jose and New York City have passed living wage laws. But Pasadena’s would be the first in the country to apply the wage requirements to welfare recipients required to work in exchange for their benefits.
“If people are going to be assigned to work in our community as a condition of receiving relief benefits or other public subsidies, they should be able to provide for their families with decency and dignity,” said City Councilman Bill Paparian.
Participants in L.A. County’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program receive $212 a month in exchange for working 20 hours a month mainly in service positions such as maintenance, tree-trimming and the like. Between 500 and 1,000 workers a month participate in the program in Pasadena.
Under Pasadena’s living wage proposal, the city would be forced to make up the difference between the county’s hourly wage and the $8.50-$11 required by the ordinance, Paparian said.
Paparian added that he expects the council to vote on the law by the end of June.