Wage hike ex­emp­tion

L. A. City Coun­cil will con­sider giv­ing non­prof­its tem­po­rary re­prieve from hikes.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Emily Alpert Reyes

L. A. will con­sider giv­ing a tem­po­rary ex­emp­tion on its min­i­mum wage in­crease to some non­prof­its.

Non­prof­its that help for­mer gang mem­bers, the home­less and other hard- to-em­ploy An­ge­lenos get back into the work­force could get a tem­po­rary ex­emp­tion from Los An­ge­les’ min­i­mum wage hike, a move in­tended to en­sure they won’t cut back on the num­ber of dis­ad­van­taged clients they serve.

Last month, L. A. law­mak­ers voted to grad­u­ally hike the city­wide min­i­mum wage to $ 15 hourly by 2020. But City Coun­cil mem­bers pushed off sev­eral sen­si­tive de­ci­sions, say­ing they would ad­dress those is­sues be­fore the f irst city­wide in­crease takes ef­fect next year.

Among the un­re­solved ques­tions was how the pay re­quire­ments should ap­ply to non­profit groups that help train work­ers.

Un­der the pro­posed ex­emp­tion ap­proved by a City Coun­cil com­mit­tee Tues­day, non­profit pro­grams such as Home­boy In­dus­tries, which as­sists for­mer gang mem­bers and ex- in­mates with jobs and train­ing, would be ex­empt from the pay re­quire­ments for up to a year and a half.

Work­ers in such train­ing pro­grams could be paid less than the L. A. city re­quire­ment for the f irst 18 months of their em­ploy­ment through the non­profit. Coun­cil mem­ber Gil Cedillo, who cham­pi­oned the pro­posal, said such pro­grams pro­vide more than just wages, in­vest­ing in their em­ploy­ees with train­ing, case man­age­ment, coun­sel­ing and an ar­ray of other ser­vices.

Groups such as Chrysalis, which pro­vides jobs to the for­merly home­less and oth­er­wise dis­ad­van­taged, the L. A. Con­ser­va­tion Corps and Home­boy In­dus­tries have ar­gued that they will have to re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple they serve if they do not get a tem­po­rary ex­emp­tion for work­ers in their train­ing pro­grams. Home­boy di­rec­tor of em­ploy­ment ser­vices Jose Osuna es­ti­mated the or­ga­ni­za­tion would be forced to elim­i­nate 60 of its 170 trainee po­si­tions by the time the min­i­mum wage hit $ 15.

“At Home­boy In­dus­tries, it has never been about the pay,” Mariana Ruiz told law­mak­ers at Tues­day’s hear­ing. She cred­ited the pro­gram with help­ing her im­prove her life af­ter years of drug use and crime, hir­ing her when no­body else would and as­sist­ing her in get­ting her driver’s li­cense and GED.

“I walked into Home­boy In­dus­tries bro­ken and hope­less but with the de­sire to take my life back.… It helped me to es­tab­lish a life be­yond my imag­i­na­tion,” Ruiz said.

The Los An­ge­les Area Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Cen­tral City Assn., which ad­vo­cates for down­town busi­nesses, back the pro­posed ex­emp­tion. But the Los An­ge­les County Fed­er­a­tion of La­bor has ar­gued against loos­en­ing the rules for non­prof­its such as Home­boy In­dus­tries. Coun­cil­man Cur­ren Price, one of the law­mak­ers who pushed to raise the min­i­mum wage, said he was un­easy with the idea.

“Philo­soph­i­cally, I’ve not been com­fort­able say­ing to tran­si­tional work­ers that be­cause they’ve faced chal­lenges in their lives in the past, they de­serve to get paid less than ev­ery other worker in the city,” Price said.

How­ever, Price said Tues­day he was “moved by the out­pour­ing of sup­port that work­ers them­selves have given this pro­posal.”

“And I want to en­sure that we don’t limit the power these or­ga­ni­za­tions have to im­pact more lives,” Price added. He said he would sup­port the pro­posal pro­vided that the city strictly de­fines what qual­i­fies a non­profit to pre­vent abuse of the ex­emp­tion.

The Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee asked city lawyers to draft le­gal lan­guage that would spell out el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments for the ex­emp­tion. The mat­ter now heads to the en­tire City Coun­cil for con­sid­er­a­tion.

A num­ber of other ques­tions re­main for L. A. law­mak­ers be­fore the min­i­mum wage in­creases be­gin, in­clud­ing whether to re­quire em­ploy­ers to of­fer more paid time off to their work­ers, whether to es­tab­lish a waiver al­low­ing union­ized com­pa­nies to pay a lower wage if their work­ers agree and whether to re­strict restau­rants’ use of sur­charges to off­set added costs.

Un­der city rules al­ready ap­proved by law­mak­ers, the city­wide min­i­mum wage will in­crease to $ 10.50 in July 2016 and con­tinue to climb grad­u­ally un­til it hits $ 15 hourly for large busi­nesses in 2020. Small busi­nesses and some non­prof­its will be granted an ex­tra year to phase in the wage hikes. Fu­ture in­creases will be tied to the con­sumer price in­dex.

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

HOME­BOY I NDUS­TRIES worker Garai Bastida takes out a trash bin. The non­profit helps for­mer gang mem­bers and ex- in­mates get back in the work force.

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