Taking On The Minimum-Wage Debate in L.A.

The national debate over minimum-wage increases will take center stage in Los Angeles because two efforts to raise the minimum wage face staunch opposition from the business community.

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The Los Angeles Business Federation, known as BizFed, went on the offensive last week, coming out strongly against both minimum-wage proposals and the way the City Council is going about reviewing the consequences of a minimum-wage increase.

Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to see the minimum wage increased to $13.25 an hour; while advocates and some council members say that’s not enough, the minimum wage should go up to $15.25 per hour.

BizFed doesn’t think the discussion should be a competition on which higher minimum wage proposal takes effect, but whether there should be an increase at all at a time the state is raising the minimum wage — to $9 an hour in 2014 from $8; and to $10 in 2016.

BizFed made its argument against the minimum-wage increase as a way to deal with the tide of poverty that is washing over Los Angeles. Said MC Townsend, president and CEO of the Regional Black Chamber of Commerce of San Fernando Valley and chair of BizFed, “We share Mayor Garcetti’s strong commitment to reducing poverty, and that is best achieved by creating good paying middle class jobs that can actually lift individuals and families out of poverty.”

Jobs lost

BizFed leaders said minimum wage increases could cost jobs; something the city cannot afford.

While Los Angeles gained 1 million new residents over the last three decades, it lost about 165,000 jobs.

In an effort to convince the City Council to understand the effects of a minimum wage increase on the job market, BizFed has raised issues dealing with the proposals’ enforcement mechanisms, teenage workers looking for entry jobs, and that neighboring cities maintaining a lower minimum wage will draw jobs from L.A.

Convincing the mayor and council to stop a race to establish a higher and even higher minimum wage will not be an easy task. The Los Angeles City Council already approved a $15.37 minimum wage plan for hotel workers.

As I’ve written before, the council ignored a review to its hotel wage proposal – even when it asked for it:

When the Los Angeles City Council passed the minimum wage for hotel workers, economist Christopher Thornberg opined in the Los Angeles Times, after studying the matter for the council, that the results of his study ‘strongly suggest that such a steep increase in the minimum wage could result in a sharp decline in the number of jobs in the hotel industry.’

“More troubling was Thornberg’s assertion that the council didn’t bother to look at his findings. Thornberg wrote, ‘But the City Council never seemed interested in really examining the potential economic consequences of the ordinance. We got our instructions about what questions to address just two weeks before the vote, and we were surprised to learn that the council intended to vote on the day after we turned in our final analysis, which suggests none of the members spent time looking at our findings.’” 

There seem to be similar goings-on with the new debate over raising the minimum wage.

Questionable study

Mayor Garcetti used the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment to study and then speak up for his minimum-wage proposal. Now, city officials wants to hire the same group to study its proposal instead of reaching out for new, independent researchers.

Apparently, city bureaucrats and some council members are not interested in second opinions, especially ones they might not agree with, as was the case with the analysis of the hotel minimum-wage proposal.

The business community has objected to this arrangement. BizFed president Tracy Rafter said the organization was “calling for a truly independent analysis of these proposals that will give policymakers credible, unbiased information to make decisions moving forward. It’s absurd for the city of Los Angeles to spend taxpayer dollars contracting U.C. Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment to tell them what they’ve already told them previously, especially when that organization has been helping advocate for the mayor’s proposal.”

With a unified effort from the business community, perhaps this time the City Council will at least listen to business concerns.

Originally published on Calwatchdog.com

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