Minimum wage workers in Los Angeles will most likely see a significant pay bump by 2020.
On Wednesday, the Economic Development Committee unanimously voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next 5 years. The increase would happen gradually - next year, workers will be paid $10.50 an hour, $12 by 2017, $13.25 by 2018 and $14.25 by 2019. Currently, the minimum wage in Los Angeles is $9 an hour.
The entire city council is expected to pass the plan next week and ask City Attorney Mike Feuer to create an ordinance that would make the pay increase a law. Both San Francisco and Seattle have recently raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Los Angeles is considered one of the least affordable housing markets in the country and stagnant wage growth has left many of its residents struggling to make ends meet.
“Milk is $4 a gallon,” said Brenda Smith, who told the panel she was struggling to provide for her family due to her low wages.
"This is perhaps the greatest shift of wealth in the history of this city," said Councilman Gil Cedillo.
The vote was criticized by people who said the measure who didn’t go far enough and those who argued it would harm businesses.
Elena Popp, the executive director of the advocacy group Eviction Defense Network, said, "While this is a significant step it is inadequate.” Her thoughts were echoed by Laphonza Butler, a leader of the Raise the Wage Coalition and president of the Service Employees International Union California. "It's not what workers in Los Angeles need,” she said. "But it is a far cry from where we were.”
Mark Echeverria, chief financial officer for the popular Musso & Frank Grill, said he would have to eliminate as much as half of his work force. "These guys are my family," he told the committee. "So I strongly, strongly ask the City Council, the committee and the city attorney's office to look at other options.”
The changes do have provisions for small businesses and nonprofits with 25 or fewer employees. Those businesses and organizations will have an extra year to raise their wages.