On Tuesday, May 19, the Los Angeles City Council voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. For months, thousands of workers across the U.S. have been rallying in an effort to raise the minimum wage in the "Fight for $15."
On the website for #RaiseTheWageLA, the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, is quoted as saying, “The minimum wage shouldn’t be a poverty wage. Angelenos working full time should be able to afford to live in our amazing city.” The website also says that if the measure passes, the wage would rise gradually each year, and that 567,000 people--or more than 40% of the city’s workers--will get a raise as a result.
Economic Roundtable, another website that advocated the wage hike states, “Los Angeles evokes images of year-round sunshine and celebrity, for many, a dream city of wealth and possibility. Yet, in reality, half of L.A. residents living in poverty are employed.” The site also points out, “Los Angeles is a low-wage city with a high cost of living. Though rent, food, and transportation costs are high, Angelenos earn less than in any other comparable city.”
Opponents of the initiative are afraid it might hurt businesses. Ruben Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce told ABC News, “We're talking about a 50 to 60 percent increase in labor costs over a 4-to 5-year period, at most 6-year period. Think about your own budget at home. How would you raise your cost 50-plus percent over that short of a period without any guarantee that revenue is coming in to offset it?"
Through their research, Economic Roundtable points out that “Multiple studies show that businesses are able to make adjustments with minimal job losses and price increases. Employees stay longer at work and are more productive," and point to studies that show that increased purchasing power improves overall economies. "Though some businesses will face challenges," their research states, "The shared economic growth is worth it."
Kevin Litwin, a local business owner, told ABC News, "Wouldn't you be motivated more if you got paid tomorrow, you know, higher than what you're doing right now? So, it goes for any kind of position, any kind of job. I mean, it's definitely a great incentive.”
If the measure passes, LA would join San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle in significantly raising the minimum wage, and could cause many other cities in Southern California to do the same. According to The New York Times, “Proponents of the wage increase say they expect that several nearby cities, including Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Pasadena, would follow Los Angeles’ lead and pass ordinances for higher wages in the coming months.”
LA is the second-largest city in the U.S., so this vote could pressure other cities and businesses throughout the U.S. to consider raising their minimum wage to $15, too.