With the Los Angeles City Council passing an ordinance earlier this week that will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, replica watches Santa Monica City Council is taking steps to follow suit.
City Council on Tuesday night voted 5-0 (Councilmembers Ted Winterer and Pan O’Connor were absent) to direct staff to prepare a similar minimum wage increase ordinance.
“The day I decided to put this on, there was an editorial in the LA Times saying that the City of Los Angeles is an island, and I thought the City of Los Angeles shouldn’t be an island,” Councilmember Sue Himmelrich said, introducing the item. “I’ve long believed that the $15.37 minimum wage that we have for City workers and contractors with the City is something that should be happening everywhere and in every business.”
The Council was all in agreement with the introduction of the item and spent the rest of the discussion talking about specifics they want staff to look at.
Mayor Kevin McKeown had three issues that he addressed in regards to the new law passed by L.A. City Council. One was that “we make sure we include tipped workers” and are transparent about it. His second concern was that City staff creates language to allow for union workers to trade pay increases for other benefits as they saw fit.
And “lastly,” McKeown said, “I am concerned about what I am hearing from some businesses, mostly in L.A., that they want to put something on the bill like say a service charge that may appear to the customer as a tip to the employees, but in reality, in the way they are planning to do it, that money will go to the restaurant so the employee would never see the tip. I hope that whatever we do has some language in it that any money as a service charge must go to the worker that provided that service.”
Last September, Santa Monica City Council had directed City Staff to track the progress of the Los Angeles minimum wage process, which just passed 12 to 1 on its second, procedural vote on Wednesday.
The move, as Santa Monica Councilmember Gleam Davis put it, was to closely monitor L.A. and consider an ordinance only once L.A.’s passed, so that “the City of Santa Monica was not at a competitive disadvantage” if they acted too soon.
Now that L.A.’s vote has passed, smaller cities around L.A. such as Santa Monica can move forward with legislation without the fear of competitively hurting businesses.
The minimum wage discussion is nothing new to Santa Monica, which 15 years ago passed a coastal zone living wage, only to have it rescinded in a business-funded referendum.
“We then passed a minimum wage for all City contractors [of $15.37] and have specified a minimum wage of $15.37 an hour in recent hotel Development Agreements,” McKeown said.
Jerry Rubin, the lone public speaker on this item at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, was in agreement with Council on the topic and applauded their swiftness of action.
As things move forward, City staff as well as the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce will continue to study the topic and work together to craft something that fits Santa Monica.
“We have not yet taken a position on the minimum wage being raised in Los Angeles or potentially here in Santa Monica, but we will certainly be a strong voice in that dialogue,” said Laurel Rosen, President and CEO of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. “We need to proceed cautiously on any minimum wage discussions—a rushed, one-size-fits all approach may not take into account the diversity of needs and challenges facing these businesses.”
Whatever the route, it is clear that Council wants to make the minimum-wage-raise island that much bigger, perhaps in hopes of galvanizing other cities to follow, making it look less like an island and, hopefully, more like a unified country in support of workers.