LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to incrementally raise the minimum wage in unincorporated areas over the next five years, reaching $15 an hour by 2020.
Supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas backed the ordinance. Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe dissented, raising concerns about the impact on businesses.
Knabe voted in favor of the hike for county employees only.
The minimum wage statewide is currently $9 an hour, but it is scheduled to increase to $10 an hour in January.
Kuehl recommended the county wage hike, which will include a series of increases over five years, beginning July 1, 2016, and reaching $15 an hour by 2020. The wage will go to $10.50 in July 2016, $12 in July 2017, $13.25 in July 2018, $14.25 in July 2019 then to $15 the following year. After 2020, the wage will be adjusted annually based on the cost of living. Small businesses with fewer than 26 employees will have until 2021 to meet the wage increase. [Read Kuehl’s motion here.]
Kuehl said she’d “never been prouder than I am today” about giving “tens of thousands of low-wage workers whose labor has been undervalued and, too often, stolen” the opportunity to enter the working class rather than living in “the poverty class.”
Antonovich countered that “a $15 minimum wage is really $21.17,” once taxes and health insurance are considered. He also warned that theme parks like Magic Mountain and retailers like Ross and Walmart might be annexed to other cities to avoid paying the higher wage, hurting the county tax roll.
“Are you going to have businesses stay here, thrive and create jobs or are you going to have another exodus?” Antonovich said.
The board discussed the proposal last month, but postponed a vote due to concerns over a Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation report on the issue.
Dozens of workers packed the county board room Tuesday in support of the wage hike, telling the board that despite working full-time, they’re unable to pay for basic necessities. They faced off against business owners, large and small, who mostly opposed the increase, warning the board that they would be forced to lay off workers, cut hours and raise prices.
The board’s action – which will also apply to county employees – leaves dozens of municipalities to decide whether they will respond in kind.
Business representatives warned that setting a higher wage in unincorporated areas would create a bureaucratic nightmare for businesses that operate within and outside of those “islands.”
Following its approval of a minimum wage increase in unincorporated areas to $15 by 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to increase the “living wage” for contract workers on county jobs to $13.25 by 2016.
Additional raises approved as part of the board’s action put the living wage on pace to exceed the minimum wage. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended the increase, the first since 2007.
The living wage is the minimum that county contractors — who perform cafeteria, janitorial, landscaping and other typically low-wage functions — must pay their employees. Roughly 4,200 workers under more than 220 contracts will be affected.
They currently receive an hourly wage of either $9.64 with health insurance or $11.84 without health benefits, for an annual take-home pay of $20,051 or $24,627, respectively, for a 40-hour work week.
The board’s vote does away with the two-tiered system and sets the living wage to increase to $13.25 by 2016, $14.25 by 2017, $15 by 2018 and $15.79 by 2019, with changes thereafter based on changes in the cost of living index.
The board’s vote was 3-2, with Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe dissenting. Knabe in particular objected to tying wage increases to the Consumer Price Index, saying it would limit the ability to manage through economic downturns.