L.A. Now

Santa Monica votes to raise its minimum wage

The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday night approved a minimum wage ordinance that would put it in line with its neighbors in Los Angeles city and county.

As in Los Angeles, the law, which still must come before the council for a second reading in two weeks, would raise the minimum wage at most businesses in the city to $15 by 2020.

Wages at city hotels and motels of all sizes, and at associated businesses located at hotels, would reach $15.37 per hour by 2017.

Six council members voted for the ordinance. One abstained.

The Santa Monica ordinance, unlike Los Angeles', exempts union employees working under collective bargaining agreements -- a provision meant to encourage employers to be open to union organizing.

It also requires paid leave for employees beyond the minimum three days required by the state. Employees at businesses with 26 or more employees would be able to accrue nine days of paid leave, while those at smaller businesses could accrue five.

Like the Los Angeles law, the Santa Monica measure phases in the wage increases and allows certain employers to move a little more slowly.

Certain nonprofits and employers with fewer than 25 employees get an extra year to reach $15. Hotels that can show that they would have to cut staff by more than 20% or workers' hours by more than 30% would be able to get one-year waivers.

In response to concerns from employers on Santa Monica Pier who hire many young, seasonal workers, the measure also includes a provision allowing employers to pay 85% of the minimum wage for 480 hours or six months -- whichever comes first -- to first-time workers. That works out to six months for part-time workers on the job 20 hours a week, and three months for full-time workers.

Numerous high school students spoke in opposition to that provision, saying that they use their wages to help their families and to raise money for college, and that they should be paid the same wages as others.

More than 50 people signed up to speak at the meeting.

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Some worried about hotel workers being a year behind L.A. in reaching $15.37. Those representing some employers suggested reducing the paid leave. Restaurant workers expressed concern about the ordinance's regulation of restaurant service charges -- whose proceeds, they said, often don't get to employees.

After voting for the ordinance, the council directed city staffers to set up a broad-based working group, including stakeholders, to go over and possibly fine-tune provisions in some of these areas.

Santa Monica already has one local wage ordinance applying to companies doing business with the city. Passed in 2005, it sets a minimum wage of $15.37 per hour for employees of those providing services to the city under contracts of $54,200 or greater. Development agreements for several new hotels also carry the same wage provision.

The council has been working on a minimum wage ordinance for the last eight months.

This month, the minimum wage in California went up from $9 to $10.

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