Los Angeles, the second largest city in the US, on May 19 passed a city ordinance that raises the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour.
The wage increase, which will be phased in over a five-year period, will affect more than 500,000 workers by 2017.
The City Council vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour was the result of a grassroots organizing effort by labor, community, and religious groups.
The Raise the Wage Coalition organized volunteers to canvass neighborhoods, make phone calls, hold in-home meetings, and participate in rallies to support the increased minimum wage.
Earlier this month, the coalition hand delivered to the City Council more than 100,000 pledge cards signed by workers supporting the minimum wage increase.
The coalition had originally sought to increase the minimum wage to $15.25 and to require employers to provide employees with paid sick days, but the new ordinance does not include paid sick days.
Nevertheless, leaders of the coalition were proud of the success of the movement for a higher minimum wage.
“We applaud this pivotal vote that raises the wage minimum wage to $15 an hour and enforces it,” said Laphonza Butler, a co-convener of Raise the Wage and president of SEIU California. “We believe that earned sick days are an important part of any comprehensive policy and are confident that after review, Los Angeles will join cities across the country and guarantee workers much-needed sick days.”
The May 19 vote formalizes the intent of the City Council to raise the minimum wage; the city’s general counsel will now draft the ordinance that implements the raise, which the City Council must approve before the increase becomes effective.
“We are one step closer to making history in Los Angeles by adopting a comprehensive minimum wage policy that will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of hard-working Angelenos, said Rusty Hicks, the other co-convener and secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “The City Council’s action today creates a path for workers to succeed and gives our economy the boost it needs to grow.”
The ordinance approved by the City Council phases in the minimum wage increase. In July 2016 the city minimum wage increases from $9 an hour to $10.50 an hour.
From then until 2020, the minimum wage increases every year until it reaches $15 an hour. After 2020, the minimum wage increases as the cost of living increases.
Most employers are covered by this schedule, but businesses employing 25 or fewer workers will have an extra year to comply.
A study of the impact of raising the minimum wage commissioned by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti estimates that about 567,000 workers – or 37 percent of workers covered by the policy – will receive a pay raise by 2017 increasing aggregate earnings by $1.8 billion.
Business groups opposing the wage increase warned that an increased minimum wage would result in fewer jobs for low-wage workers.
But the study said that extensive research shows that increasing the minimum wage increases the buying power of low-wage workers, stimulating the local economy and creating more jobs.
A higher minimum wage will also reduce turnover and increase productivity, which should help to hold down price increases that may result after wages increase.
There is concern that some low-wage businesses may relocate to suburbs of Los Angeles to avoid paying a living wage, which is why the Raise the Wage campaign is being expanded beyond the boundaries of city of Los Angeles.
The coalition is already asking the Los Angeles County Commissioners to consider an ordinance that will raise the minimum wage in unincorporated areas of the county to $15 an hour.
It also is organizing campaigns to raise the minimum wage in nearby suburbs such as Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Pasadena.
Anggie Godoy, a McDonald’s worker and activist in the Raise the Wage campaign told the Guardian that she plans to help in the campaign to extend the minimum increase beyond the boundaries of the city of Los Angeles.
“Just like they were here for me, I’ll be there for them,” said Godoy to the Guardian.