Uproar over L.A. minimum wage study spurs call for more studies

Uproar over L.A. minimum wage study spurs call for more studies
Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price, shown in February 2014, is asking the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the L.A. County labor federation to submit their own minimum wage studies. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A city councilman pushing to boost the minimum wage in Los Angeles is inviting more study of the idea — this time from some of its biggest fans and foes.

Councilman Curren Price is asking the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the L.A. County labor federation to submit their own studies after the city came under fire for its choice of a UC Berkeley research team to analyze two proposals to raise the minimum wage citywide.


Two other city councilmen joined business groups last week in criticizing the choice, arguing it was inappropriate to tap the same team that did an earlier, largely favorable study on the increase proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. They asked to restart the process to choose an analyst.

Instead of joining that effort, Price suggested that the business community and labor federation commission and share their own studies on the minimum-wage proposals, to be heard before a city council committee.

"My intention would be to hold a separate hearing for each study .… Having a series of hearings on the different studies will afford members of the city council and the public the opportunity to weigh a larger body of evidence, hear a wider range of expert viewpoints, and make their own individual decisions regarding study findings," Price wrote to the two groups.

The city, which is paying roughly $84,000 for the Berkeley analysis, would not provide any funding for the studies under Price's proposal. Price asked the two groups to submit their reviews by March 6.

L.A. County Labor federation leader Rusty Hicks said Wednesday his group is looking forward to "submitting a thorough economic report."

The Chamber of Commerce was unimpressed by the offer, saying it was a distraction from the "mistake" of choosing the Berkeley team.

"While we're always happy to provide information to decision makers, adding two new studies does not fix the problem that the taxpayer-funded city study on the minimum wage would be conducted by a biased source," said Ruben Gonzalez, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce.

"Even with information provided by the chamber and federation of labor, we still must have a different credible and unbiased source for the city study," Gonzalez said.

The city underwent a similar process before raising wages for workers at large hotels last year, soliciting studies from economists chosen by the chamber and the labor federation, along with a third study from a mutually agreed-upon economist.

That process didn't appease critics of the hotel wage boost: Opponents from the business community argued that despite seeking out those studies, lawmakers gave short shrift to possible drawbacks of the plan, giving researchers little time to speak to the full council.

In a letter Tuesday to city officials who helped choose the UC Berkeley team out of four applicants to perform the study, Price asked to commission peer reviews of the Berkeley study and any studies submitted by the chamber and the labor federation.

The city is weighing whether to increase the minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017, as Garcetti first proposed last year — or to a higher level sought by labor activists and some council members, to $15.25 by 2019.

Labor groups argue that boosting the minimum wage will help families and jump-start the local economy, while business organizations critical of the idea say it will push jobs out of the city.

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