As the Los Angeles City Council prepares for a final vote Wednesday to raise the minimum wage, leaders of the most prominent business group to back a citywide pay boost have privately expressed concerns about changes made to the proposal since Mayor Eric Garcetti first sought their support.
The Los Angeles Business Council, a Century City-based coalition of firms that has supported liberal causes such as affordable housing and clean-energy projects, endorsed Garcetti's plan to increase the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017.
But last week, after the City Council gave tentative approval to a more far-reaching proposal that would gradually raise minimum hourly pay to $15 by 2020, the business group's president conveyed dissatisfaction with the council plan to the mayor's office.
"My leadership is not so happy," Mary Leslie, president of the business council, wrote in a May 19 email to senior mayoral aide Rick Jacobs several hours after the City Council vote.
"Our leadership group feels like the council proposal goes further than the mayor's proposal that we agreed to," Leslie wrote in a subsequent email. "They think the mayor's statement on the council action is too positive." (Garcetti praised the council's vote and said he would sign the ordinance into law.)
The Los Angeles Times obtained the emails from the mayor's office under the California Public Records Act. No response from Jacobs to Leslie's final email was included in the documents provided.
Jeff Millman, a spokesman for the mayor, said the City Council plan "closely mirrors Mayor Garcetti's initial proposal" and that Leslie and the business council "have been supportive throughout the process."
The business council announced its support for the mayor's proposed minimum wage increase in February as one component of a broader economic plan that included tax cuts for businesses and construction of more affordable housing.
Garcetti's office highlighted the endorsement, contrasting it with opposition to the wage increase from groups including the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce, the L.A. County Business Federation and the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.
In an interview, Leslie said her emails were "probably a little bit of an overreaction." She said she believed the council's legislation is similar in its core elements to the plan proposed by the mayor.
However, she stopped short of endorsing the ordinance in its current form, saying that only the mayor's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $13.25 had been voted on by the business council's member firms.
The mayor's plan could have eventually raised the minimum wage to $15 as well, because it called for additional annual increases pegged to inflation after 2017. But those raises would have come more slowly than under the proposal the council is expected to adopt Wednesday.
With the mayor's original plan, "you get [to $15] by 2022 or 2023, which I think most of our members preferred," Leslie said.
More worrying, Leslie said, are potential amendments to the legislation that have been put forward over the last several weeks. They include a proposed exemption for companies with unionized workforces and a mandate that companies give workers as many as 12 paid days off every year.
The City Council plans to research those provisions in the coming weeks before deciding if they should be added to the ordinance. The mayor has declined to say whether he supports either amendment.
"You start throwing in the exemption for unions, and the 12 days paid leave, and it starts to look like something else," Leslie said.
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