Santa Monica Widens Living Wage Ordinance

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Santa Monica City Council tightened language in its controversial living wage ordinance Tuesday, clarifying that the law, which covers businesses in two tourism zones, also covers city workers and subcontractors.

The council had been expected to give final approval to the ordinance setting a $10.50-per-hour minimum wage for businesses in the city's downtown and beach tourism zones.

Under changes made Tuesday, businesses in the tourism zones would not be able to get around the law by farming work out to subcontractors. The ordinance will come back before the council for final approval, officials said.

The ordinance, which experts say is the first in the nation aimed at businesses not under city contract, goes into effect in the summer of 2002. It also includes an additional $2.50 per hour for health benefits by its second year and a clause that would prevent employers from firing or retaliating against workers who report violations of the wage law.

About 40 businesses grossing $5 million a year or more are expected to be subject to the ordinance, which also includes hardship exemptions for some businesses.

Opponents of the living wage law said they will begin today to collect the approximately 5,700 signatures needed for a ballot referendum. Composed largely of hotels and other tourist businesses, the newly formed Fighting Against Irresponsible Regulation will have 30 days after final approval to collect signatures to put the law on the ballot.

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