County plan would mir­ror L.A.’s pay hike

Su­per­vi­sor Kuehl wants work­ers in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas to get lift from poverty.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Abby Sewell

Los An­ge­les County Su­per­vi­sor Sheila Kuehl said Mon­day that she in­tends to pro­pose a min­i­mum wage in­crease for county work­ers and busi­nesses in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas that mir­rors the plan re­cently ap­proved by the city of Los An­ge­les.

The pro­posal would raise the wage from $9 an hour to $15 by 2020. Kuehl said she would of­fi­cially in­tro­duce the plan Tues­day, to be sched­uled for a vote the fol­low­ing week.

Un­der her pro­posal, the timeline of in­creases would fol­low the city’s tra­jec­tory. An in­crease in the statewide min­i­mum wage to $10 an hour in Jan­uary would be fol­lowed by a bump to $10.50 in July of 2016. Af­ter that, it would grad­u­ally in­crease to $15 by July 2020. Com­pa­nies with fewer than 26 em­ploy­ees would be given an ex­tra year to im­ple­ment the plan. Kuehl did not ad­dress the is­sue of manda­tory sick days or an ex­emp­tion for union work­ers, both of which be­came con­tro­ver­sial in the city wage dis­cus­sions.

“My main con­cern has been try­ing to help peo­ple rise out of poverty,” Kuehl said. “The truth is our wages have not been keep­ing up with the ris­ing cost of rent, hous­ing, even food. It’s very dif­fi­cult to live in L.A. these days.”

An es­ti­mated 389,570 peo­ple are em­ployed in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas like East Los An­ge­les and Al­tadena, mak­ing up about 10% of the

to­tal county work­force.

Kuehl said she thinks it is “im­por­tant that the county ar­eas not suf­fer from a la­bor drain be­cause work­ers are seek­ing out the higher wages in the city of L.A.”

Her writ­ten pro­posal ar­gued that fol­low­ing the same sched­ule as the city would “min­i­mize con­fu­sion, dis­rup­tion and de­struc­tive cross-ju­ris­dic­tional conf lict and com­pe­ti­tion for both work­ers and busi­nesses” and might en­cour­age the county’s other 87 in­cor­po­rated cities to fol­low suit.

Sev­eral stud­ies that came out in the lead-up to the city’s wage in­crease — signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sun­day — reached di­ver­gent con­clu­sions about whether the move would boost or harm the lo­cal econ­omy. The county su­per­vi­sors com­mis­sioned a study of their own by Los An­ge­les County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion to study the ef­fects of a sim­i­lar in­crease in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas. The fi­nal re­port is ex­pected this week. A draft was com­pleted ear­lier this month.

The draft in­cluded the re­sults of a tele­phone sur­vey of a ran­dom sam­pling of 1,000 busi­nesses through­out the county — in the city of Los An­ge­les and in other cities as well as in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas — pre­sent­ing the first look at data col­lected di­rectly from af­fected busi­nesses.

Nearly 80% of busi­nesses said they had em­ploy­ees mak­ing less than $15.25 — the level be­ing con­sid­ered by the city when the county study was com­mis­sioned. The busi­nesses sur­veyed that had min­i­mum wage work­ers re­ported that the those em­ploy­ees made up 17.9% of their cur­rent work­force, and 70.5% of the min­i­mum wage work­ers were full-time em­ploy­ees.

None of the busi­nesses sur­veyed said it was likely that they would close down or move to an area with lower min­i­mum pay as a re­sult of the wage in­crease, and the ma­jor­ity said it was not likely they would re­duce the num­ber of work­ers they em­ploy or cut their hours back.

But 62% said they would likely raise their prices to make up for the in­creased la­bor costs.

The re­port sur­mised that the higher pro­posed wages could lead to com­pe­ti­tion among lo­cal work­ers and those who would com­mute from other ju­ris­dic­tions in search of higher pay.

“This will leave lesser can­di­dates com­pet­ing for jobs in other re­gions, per­haps fur­ther de­press­ing wages else­where, f lood­ing those mar­kets with less qual­i­fied can­di­dates and in­creas­ing un­em­ploy­ment rates of those co­horts,” the econ­o­mists wrote. “The least qual­i­fied min­i­mum wage work­ers, such as new la­bor force en­trants, teens, ex-of­fend­ers and the low­er­skilled, will have a dif­fi­cult time find­ing em­ploy­ment at the higher min­i­mum wage level.”

But they added, “On the flip side of that mar­ket, firms in neigh­bor­ing ju­ris­dic­tions will face de­fec­tions of their best-per­form­ing min­i­mum wage work­ers and will need to com­pete in the la­bor mar­ket.”

Two-thirds of busi­nesses sur­veyed said that even if the min­i­mum wage did not in­crease in their own ju­ris­dic­tion, they would likely in­crease the wages they pay to com­pete with neigh­bor­ing ar­eas, and 70% said they would likely raise prices to match those of busi­nesses pay­ing a higher min­i­mum wage.

Gina Ferazzi Los An­ge­les Times

SUR­ROUNDED by City Coun­cil mem­bers and sup­port­ers, Mayor Eric Garcetti on Satur­day shows off his sig­na­ture af­ter sign­ing the law rais­ing the min­i­mum wage in Los An­ge­les to $15 per hour by 2020.

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