L.A., a min­i­mum wage is­land

The sooner the rest of the county adopts a re­gion­wide wage, the bet­ter for work­ers and busi­nesses.

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

The City Coun­cil is on the verge of fi­nal­iz­ing Los An­ge­les’ plan to raise the min­i­mum wage to $15 by 2020, but an­other last-minute wrin­kle demon­strates the dif­fi­culty of set­ting min­i­mum wages city by city. The sooner the rest of Los An­ge­les County adopts a re­gion­wide wage, the bet­ter it will be for work­ers, busi­nesses and reg­u­la­tors.

Un­der the draft or­di­nance re­leased last week, an em­ployee who per­forms two or more hours of work a week in the city would be en­ti­tled to the new min­i­mum wage for those hours — even if his or her em­ployer is lo­cated out­side the city. This is the way San Fran­cisco, Oak­land and all other Cal­i­for­nia cities with min­i­mum wages op­er­ate as well. But busi­ness groups have warned that such a rule will be con­fus­ing, will in­volve a lot of pa­per­work and will be dif­fi­cult to en­force, es­pe­cially for work­ers — such as those who make de­liv­er­ies — whose jobs re­quire them to travel through­out the re­gion.

That’s true. It will be com­pli­cated. But the city has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure the wage man­date is ap­plied fairly so that peo­ple work­ing in Los An­ge­les get the in­crease as in­tended. Is two hours a week the ap­pro­pri­ate thresh­old to qual­ify? Is there a bet­ter way to de­ter­mine who gets the city wage? The or­di­nance should be care­fully drafted so that it meets the ob­jec­tives of the City Coun­cil, is fair to busi­ness, and is as clear and easy to en­force as pos­si­ble.

No mat­ter how the is­sues are re­solved, the re­sult will no doubt be messy as long as L.A. is a high-min­i­mum-wage is­land, which is why the city can­not go it alone. Some 30 cities and swaths of un­in­cor­po­rated county area touch the bor­ders of Los An­ge­les, and com­merce and work­ers cross juris­dic­tional bound­aries ev­ery day. Mayor Eric Garcetti, his coun­cil col­leagues and ad­vo­cates for the work­ing poor have to use what­ever po­lit­i­cal and moral lever­age they have to en­cour­age sur­round­ing cities to raise their min­i­mum wage too. The Los An­ge­les County Board of Su­per­vi­sors is con­sid­er­ing rais­ing the min­i­mum wage in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas, as are the cities of West Hol­ly­wood and Santa Mon­ica. That’s a good start, but there is a lot more work to do to help en­sure that the re­gion de­vel­ops a co­her­ent wage pol­icy.

Los An­ge­les’ min­i­mum wage isn’t the end of the fight to help the work­ing poor make ends meet in one of the na­tion’s most ex­pen­sive re­gions. It should be just the be­gin­ning.

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