L.A. Mayor proposes $13.25 minimum wage

September 2, 2014
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti makes an announcement at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in South Los Angeles with a coalition of business, labor, community, and faith leaders from across the city on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. Garcetti announced his proposal to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles from the current $9 per hour to $13.25 in 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti makes an announcement at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in South Los Angeles with a coalition of business, labor, community, and faith leaders from across the city on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. Garcetti announced his proposal to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles from the current $9 per hour to $13.25 in 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his proposal to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles to $13.25 an hour during a Labor Day rally in South Los Angeles.

“While our city has added 40,000 jobs, and unemployment has dropped 2 percent since I became mayor, the erosion of wages for low- and middle-wage workers threatens our recovery,” Garcetti told the crowd of residents, community and faith leaders. “Our city has always enjoyed the greatest prosperity when everyone can afford to support themselves and contribute to our economy”

Soon after he took office on July 1, 2013 Garcetti has been shopping a plan to local business groups to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017. The wage would go up by $1.25 the first year, and $1.50 each of the following two years, after which it would be pegged to the cost of living.

The minimum hourly wage in California is $9 and set to go up to $10 in 2016.

Los Angeles would join cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Oakland where minimum wage increases are being considered, according to the National Employment Law Project, a group that advocates for minimum wage increases.

Seattle recently approved a measure to increase the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2017, while San Diego approved a wage that would rise to $11.50 an hour by 2017.

Shortly after Garcetti spoke, Los Angeles Hotel Operators released a statement saying the mayor’s proposal conflicts with a plan offered by local labor leaders who want to raise the minimum wage to $15 for hotel workers.

“If both proposals pass, the city will have contrary wages for different industries,” the statement said. “This is very troubling and we look forward to talking more with our elected officials to express our concerns.”

The $13.25 per hour minimum wage that is expected to be pushed by Garcetti would be among the highest in the nation, according to National Employment group.

The anticipated $13.25 proposal would still be less than the $15 minimum hourly wage that is on the November ballot in San Francisco. The business and labor community there agreed to put the issue to the voters, the group said.

“There is a significant movement going on around the country, and L.A. is no exception,” said Arun Ivatury, a spokesman for the National Employment Law Project. ”Wage increases are overwhelmingly popular in the general public,” and this may also be the case in “Los Angeles where a lot of low wage workers are struggling,” Ivatury said.

Los Angeles business leaders voiced concern last week over the plan, but two major business groups have not taken official stances on the issue.

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, said the group’s board members will listen to Garcetti’s proposal today before taking a position. Waldman said last week the proposal would hurt some businesses and could result in job loss.

“This is incredible that the mayor would even consider this in this economy,” Waldman said.  ”We are losing businesses, which are moving out of the city in droves. This will only further activate the flight of businesses
and jobs (from) Los Angeles.”

Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said the feedback from members has “largely been one of concern about what impact this will have on small businesses and nonprofits.”

Toebben said earlier that the recently instituted statewide hike of the minimum wage to $9 and ultimately to $10 “will have less of an impact” than a hike for an individual city. A city wage increase “doesn’t impact the other 6 million people in the counties, city and other regions around us,” he said.

The mayor’s office said specifics of the proposal will be posted on the city’s website, but mayoral aide Jeff Millman issued a statement saying officials have been meeting with business leaders, as well as “labor, community and faith leaders” to talk about  ”ways to help L.A. families and our economy thrive.”

One of Garcetti’s goals is to “lift Angelenos out of poverty,” Millman said.

Connie Llanos, an aide for Councilman Curren Price, who has suggested that a citywide minimum wage hike be instituted, said “we’re excited” to have a “conversation” about poverty in Los Angeles.

The council has been working on a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour at large hotels.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who spearheaded the effort, said earlier that if Garcetti were to officially come out with a proposal, he would “embrace it, welcome it, champion it and do everything I could to get it passed by the
council.”

“I’d also say if the mayor does propose it, I think it will get a lot of support among the City Council and it will have broad-based support from labor, business, faith, communities and political leaders,” he said.

Bonin noted that he has heard support for raising the minimum wage from several people in the business community, adding that he has also been discussing “various strategies to reduce business taxes” with the mayor.

Businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad also threw his support behind raising the minimum wage citywide, saying “if Los Angeles is to maintain our standing as a world-class city, we need to increase the minimum wage.”

“Raising the minimum wage would help lift people out of poverty and stimulate our local economy,” he said.

Broad is expected to attend today’s announcement, along with Bonin, Price, fellow council members Gil Cedillo and Nury Martinez and City Council President Herb Wesson.

The $13.25 minimum wage plan also drew support from Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. Her group is pushing for the $15 minimum wage for hotel workers.

“I’m very glad to hear the mayor would be interested in increasing the minimum wage,” she said. “We’ve been working on increasing wages. We know that there has been a tremendous growth of poverty wage jobs.”

A group of activists is also hoping to get an initiative on the ballot to raise the minimum wage to $15 for all workers in the city.

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