Los Angeles is set to become the largest American metropolis to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, in a decision its top labor official said should inspire other large U.S. cities to follow suit.
The City Council Tuesday voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020, a move expected to boost the salaries of about 800,000 workers. The decision puts Los Angeles in the company of San Francisco and Seattle, which are setting their wage floors at $15 between 2018 and 2021.
Congress hasn’t moved to raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour since 2009. That’s left states and cities to act on their own. They join companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., McDonald’s Corp, and Target Corp. that have pledged to boost pay under pressure from organized labor.
“We’ve now seen the second-largest city in this country raise wages for three-quarters of a million people and it shows that large municipalities and some states are taking the lead on this issue,” said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, which represents 600,000 workers.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio called for raising his city’s minimum wage to more than $13 in 2016 and $15 per hour by 2019. De Blasio has said New York State’s $8.75 minimum, which is due to rise to $9 next year, is insufficient to make ends meet in the largest U.S. city.
Chicago’s City Council voted last December to boost the city’s lowest wage to $10 an hour this July from $8.25, and to $13 by 2019.
As of the beginning of the year, 29 states and the District of Columbia had set their minimum wage above the federal level, according to the National Employment Law Project, a New York-based advocacy group.
In Los Angeles, the council voted 14-1 to phase in the wage increase between July and 2020, which will keep California’s largest city ahead of the statewide minimum of $10 an hour at the beginning of next year.
“Help is on the way for the one million Angelenos who live in poverty,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement after the vote. “I started this campaign to raise the minimum wage to create broader economic prosperity in our city and because the minimum wage should not be a poverty wage in Los Angeles.”
Garcetti, a Democrat, last year proposed raising the city minimum wage to $13.25 an hour by 2017. His plan drew criticism from business groups who warned it would result in job losses, and from labor advocates who said it doesn’t go far enough in a city with the largest gap between incomes and housing prices.
The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce voted last September to oppose Garcetti’s proposal, saying a minimum wage increase should be part of a larger economic-development plan.
“The council’s action today is going to have a significant impact on small businesses and non-profits throughout the city,” chamber President Gary Toebben said in a statement. “We have been urging the council to establish a longer phase-in so that small businesses would not be forced to cut employee hours or eliminate jobs in order to offset the increase in the minimum wage.”