Minimum wage activists set sights on L.A.

Minimum wage activists set sights on L.A.

wageThe concerted push for higher minimum wages in California has spread from the East Bay to Los Angeles.

On the heels of a recently approved $15 minimum wage in Seattle, advocates for dramatically increased hourly wages sensed an opportunity to select a fresh target. That’s where L.A. comes in. Organizations including the Los Angeles Workers Assembly and Peoples Power Assemblies have begun drafting a measure that would put a $15 wage on November’s city ballot.

Activists’ experience in Seattle suggests that once a city votes in a mandatory wage boost, reversing the policy can be an extreme challenge. That even appears to be true during the time before increased wages are implemented. A business-led effort to repeal that city’s wage ordinance called Forward Seattle has run aground, failing to collect enough signatures to put a repeal plan before voters. That marks an end to organized opposition to the increase in wages, which takes effect gradually until topping out in 2017.

Hotel politics — and union gamesmanship?

Activists in L.A. had already singled out hotel workers for a planned hike in wages, almost doubling the rate to $15.37 an hour. Industry and business organizations reacted predictably. Lynn Mohrfeld, president and CEO of the California Hotel Association, observed that the scheme would only affect non-union hotels — stoking speculation that unions hoped businesses would encourage unionization to avoid the sudden leap in costs.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who had been cagey about singling out hotels when his primary opponent Wendy Greuel called it a “living wage,” now supports the idea. Garcetti has said he would sign an ordinance bringing large hotels’ minimum wages to $15.37, but is only “reviewing” the current, broader proposal for a blanket $15 wage, according to a spokesman.

One reason activists looked to Los Angeles after Seattle is simple: California has already been successfully targeted for blanket minimum wage hikes. On July 1, Assembly Bill 10 went into effect, raising the state minimum wage to $9 an hour. On the first of the year in 2016, that figure will rise again to $10. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill last fall, giving activists a substantial amount of lead time in planning their next move.

L.A. isn’t the only city where minimum wage increases are on the march. Just this month, San Diego skipped over voters entirely and opted to raise wages through its City Council. Todd Gloria, the council president, initially wanted to put the matter on the ballot, but ended up deciding to impose it directly on a 6-3 partisan vote, with all Democratic members voting yes and all Republican members voting no. San Diego will hike the minimum wage to $9.75 on the first of the new year, to $10.50 at the start of 2016, and to $11.50 as 2017 rings in. Starting two years later, the minimum wage will rise along with inflation.

Powerful coalition builds in S.F.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco an overwhelming coalition of labor, interest and some business groups succeeded in placing on their city ballot a gradual wage increase to $15 by 2018. Although even San Francisco’s Chamber of Commerce has lent its symbolic approval to the measure, restaurateurs and hospitality industry leaders expect the hikes will hit them hard.

Finally, East Bay mayors have recently hatched a plan to coordinate their minimum wage increases. A wage proposal on Oakland’s upcoming ballot is poised to trigger a round of hikes that would end up reaching from Richmond to Berkeley to Emeryville and beyond.

Liberals, union leaders and labor activists were disappointed when Congress opposed a national minimum wage hike — a marquee initiative drummed up by high-ranking Democrats to shift attention away from Obamacare’s then-humiliating struggles. But the subsequent shift to state and local activism has demonstrated the effectiveness of politics practiced closer to the ground.

With momentum behind them, L.A. organizers have settled on an accelerated timetable for phasing in the hikes. Small businesses and nonprofits would get less than two years to prepare for the increase, while large businesses would be hit immediately.


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  1. Hondo
    Hondo 22 July, 2014, 12:58

    LA hasn’t created a single job since the mid 90’s. And now this. I thought all this ‘new immigrant blood’ was supposed to create huge amounts of economic prosperity. But when you import them to a welfare state that penalizes business, that’s what you get. Nothing.
    If we imported these same immigrants into a pro business city and state, these same immigrants would have created the jobs the liberals promised, by the millions.
    But the MS-13 thugs that Obama is importing now will only create jobs in the criminal justice sector.

    Reply this comment
  2. californianative
    californianative 22 July, 2014, 13:35

    My wife’s relatives in Southern California are not going to pay their illegal alien gardeners and pool boys $15/hr!

    Reply this comment
  3. californianative
    californianative 22 July, 2014, 13:39

    They will keep paying them as little as they can to get the job done. Cash under the table. No taxes paid.

    Reply this comment
  4. Queeg
    Queeg 22 July, 2014, 16:04

    Do not tip anyone. Do services yourself. Buy United Ststes. Cancel credit cards. Never give your email or phone#. No shop big box stores. Cancel social medis membership. Never buy from TV.

    It’s time to tske back your way of life!

    Reply this comment
  5. Tom in SoCal
    Tom in SoCal 23 July, 2014, 09:20

    What a crazy idea. They might be able to get this and the hotel industry will simply pass it on.

    Where it will hurt everyone is when the manufacturers and other mobile businesses have to absorb this.

    What do you think those businesses will do? Move out of LA to the neighboring cities. As if LA didn’t give those businesses enough reasons to move.

    Good going LA! Way to shoot yourself in the foot!

    Reply this comment
  6. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 23 July, 2014, 09:47

    One aspect that is overlooked in the “minimum wage” brouhaha is that a significant segment of those who STAY at the minimum wage level (not just start, but STAY) actually make $12-$30+ an hour. That’s because, especially in states such as CA, a full minimum wage must be paid to ALL employees — including “tip” employees. Waiters, busboys, valets, hotel room cleaners, casino employees, etc. make much — often MOST — of their living off tips.

    In most other states, these job categories often can be paid a reduced minimum wage — understanding that their total compensation includes tips. Not so in California.

    In most other states, the “minimum wage” requirement can be met by tips collected. Again, not so in California. It’s minimum wage PLUS tips.

    And because these employees make so much in tips, they will NEVER be paid more than the mandated minimum wage. Nor should they be. Most decent “tip” jobs are coveted positions. As long as many qualified people seek these job openings, no employer is going to pay higher than the required minimum wage.

    For others in straight wage jobs who start out at the minimum wage, about 2/3 receive pay raises by the end of the year (assuming they work out as new employees, gaining “soft skills” that make them reliable workers). Among the 2/3 who get a pay increase that first year, the median average salary gain for such workers is 24%.

    The closer to full-time the entry worker is, the better the chances that they will develop skills quicker and receive raises faster. Minimum wage is seldom a permanent compensation position — except for “tip” employees and some part-timers.

    In California, being a waiter, bartender, valet or casino dealer can be a surprisingly desirable job — as more and more college grads are discovering. This results in a “misallocation of labor” — overqualified people holding semi-skilled jobs (okay, dealing IS a skilled job!). This distortion also “crowds out” job opportunities for folks who normally would qualify for such employment, increasing long term unemployment among the less educated.

    A higher minimum wage will only increase this distortion.

    Reply this comment
  7. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 23 July, 2014, 19:57

    Very interesting.

    Add Obamacare…..for a family of four……the subsidy amount could come close to the monthly tips collected.

    Government makes economic distortions that amaze-

    Reply this comment
  8. bubbagump
    bubbagump 26 July, 2014, 14:40

    Sure raise the MINIMUM wage to $15 an hour and then see how much you like paying $20 for that Big Mac Combo!

    Some Meat Head sitting outside of “Home Dump” asked me to sign a petition to raise the “minimum wage” I told the Idiot that’s why it’s called Minimum wage, so you work hard to get paid more!

    Reply this comment
  9. Queeg
    Queeg 26 July, 2014, 22:57

    Buying a union job through monthly dues or getting fools to vote to raise entry workers’ wages …….both raise the cost of labor faster than productivity increases leading to employee layoffs, permanent new technology eliminating labor costs or cause a sharp rise in inflation.

    France has had militant uncompromising unions and very high minimum wages for years coupled with liberal welfare programs. France,historically, has had high unemployment, particularly, for young people. Sound domestically familiar?

    Reply this comment

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