Los Angeles County Raises Minimum Wage to $15 per hour

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to create an ordinance that raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour in unincorporated areas of the county.
     Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas smiled broadly and raised their palms to the ceiling after the vote, to chants and cheers from the audience inside the auditorium at the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
     The board’s two Republicans, Michael Antonovich and Supervisor Don Knabe, voted no to the wage increase. Knabe, however, joined his fellow supervisors in a 4-1 vote approving a wage increase for government workers.
     While Knabe voiced concerns about the impact of the new wage law on small businesses, Antonovich was more vocal in his opposition.
     Antonovich said a $15 minimum wage would cost employers $21.17 because of payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, mandated training taxes, health insurance and other costs.
     “It’s a severe impact on employers. More importantly, it’s an impact on the young, and the old who want part-time job entry-level positions that will now be denied to them. And again, that hurts our economy and it hurts our general fund that we have the ability to support the county services for the 10 million people that we represent,” Antonovich said.
     Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, the supervisors heard public comments from those speaking in favor of and in opposition to a wage increase, including low-wage representatives and workers in the hospitality and fast-food industries, business groups and small business people.
     In the packed auditorium several activists held up purple and yellow signs reading “Fight for $15,” frequently booing and jeering people who took the stage to voice their opposition.
     The five-member board approved an ordinance that would increase wages from $9 to $15 per hour by 2020.
     Kuehl’s recommendation will allow the county to create a minimum-wage ordinance for the board’s review, mirroring the wage increase LA Mayor Eric Garcetti signed into law last month.
     Speaking in support of the motion, Kuehl noted that opponents to the minimum wage made similar arguments when the federal government approved a minimum wage in 1938.
     “Business said the same thing. They were all going to go out of business, they were going to move to – I don’t know where – Canada,” Kuehl said. “But it did not lead to this kind of migration. Frankly, we’ve lost jobs to other countries not because we set a minimum wage but because they exploit their workers so terribly and businesses take advantage of that. Those are not the type of businesses I want to support anyway.”
     Kuehl said that it had taken “decades and decades of work” to come to a point where officials were approving fair-wage laws.
     “We are not paying workers to be in the working class anymore. They are now in the poverty class,” Kuehl said.
     The wage increase would apply to all nonprofits and businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county, beginning with an increase to $10.50 per hour next year.
     Employers with less than 16 employees will have two years to prepare for the annual increases, with the first rollout scheduled for July 1, 2017.
     In seven years, the minimum wage will then increase yearly based on the average Consumer Price Index over the previous two decades.
     The County Counsel will have 45 days to submit a countywide ordinance for the board’s approval.
     Last year, Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour. That ordinance took effect April 1.

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