L.A. lawmakers lay out path to $15.25 minimum wage by 2019

L.A. lawmakers lay out path to $15.25 minimum wage by 2019
Labor groups and workers, including Silvia Molina and Jose Rolando, center, participate in a news conference on the steps of City Hall to urge the City Council to raise the Los Angeles minimum wage and include paid sick days and wage theft protections. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

Six members of the Los Angeles City Council launched an effort Tuesday to take the city's minimum wage to $15.25 by 2019, a move that would be more aggressive than the pay strategy backed by Mayor Eric Garcetti several weeks ago.

The proposal calls for the city's lawyers to draft an ordinance hiking the citywide minimum wage to $13.25 by 2017. That's in line with Garcetti's proposal, unveiled last month.


Where the two proposals diverge is in what happens next.

Garcetti had called for the minimum wage to continue to go up annually starting in 2018 by a rate tied to inflation. The six council members -- Curren Price, Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz and Paul Krekorian -- have asked for a study on how to hike the minimum wage by another 15% two years later, taking it to $15.25 by 2019.

Martinez, who represents part of the San Fernando Valley, called the study a "first step" toward the higher wage. "If it's not having any negative impact, we should look at increasing it to $15.25 by 2019," she said.

Bonin said Garcetti's proposal, which relied on the Consumer Price Index, would have eventually pushed the minimum wage up to $15, possibly as soon as 2022. "We just get there quicker," he said.

"The $13.25 figure gets most families that are living underneath the poverty line just over the poverty line, but that's still a precarious position," said Bonin, who represents part of the Westside. "That is one parking ticket or moving violation away from economic catastrophe for some families. So we wanted to give an added boost."

Backers of the plan are looking for a vote early next year. In their proposal, they portrayed the wage issue as one that affects the local economy. "Businesses in Los Angeles lose money each and every day when low-wage workers don't earn enough to shop at their stores," they said.

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., predicted the latest proposal would drive prices up and result in "even more job loss in this city."

If the council approves a $15.25 minimum wage, "you're going to lose all the mom-and-pop shops," he said. "It'll change the face of this city in a bad way."

The minimum wage proposal was prepared on the same day that Garcetti, Council President Herb Wesson and other politicians discussed the minimum wage in Lincoln Heights with Vice President Joe Biden.

The council voted last week to hike the minimum wage at large hotels to $15.37. Carol Schatz, the head of the downtown-based Central City Assn., said the way in which that vote was handled left her with serious doubts about whether the issue of job losses will be "thoughtfully weighed by the council."

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