Look­ing ahead to $15 an hour

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Em­ploy­ees, like Marissa Avila, above, and em­ploy­ers weigh in on in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage.

Marissa Avila (above), 36, of­ten faces dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions: Does she buy shoes for her sons or pay her phone bill? Splurge on movie tick­ets or treat her kids to meat?

For nearly 12 years, Avila has washed dishes and helped cook at the Mid-Wil­shire Con­va­les­cent Hos­pi­tal, a nurs­ing home. She started out earn­ing $8.50 an hour and now makes $11.20. At $15 an hour, which the city of Los An­ge­les is mov­ing to re­quire by 2020, the sin­gle mother sees bet­ter choices in her fu­ture.

“It’s go­ing to be a huge, huge dif­fer­ence,” she said. “Even 25 cents or 50 cents could change a lot for my life and the lives of my kids.”

First, she would hire a baby-sit­ter to watch her 8-yearold in the morn­ings so she doesn’t need to wake him up at 5 a.m. and bring him to work un­til she can rush him to school dur­ing her 7:30 a.m. break.

Four years ago, Avila’s hus­band di­vorced her and stopped sup­port­ing the chil­dren. Rent for her one-bed­room apart­ment rose 4% to $950 a month ear­lier this year. Some­times, she has to de­lay her bill pay­ments.

Ini­tially, Avila was skep­ti­cal of the plan to phase in the city­wide min­i­mum wage in­crease. At her cur­rent pay grade, she prob­a­bly won’t feel an ef­fect un­til the floor reaches $12 an hour on July 1, 2017.

But the prom­ise of bet­ter com­pen­sa­tion al­lows her to dream about sav­ing a lit­tle for the fu­ture or af­ford­ing a more pres­ti­gious col­lege for her 15-year-old. “I’d feel proud to earn a lit­tle more,” she said. “And I’d be hap­pier.”

Allen J. Sch­aben L.A. Times

Allen J. Sch­aben Los An­ge­les Times

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