The distinct possibility of raising the minimum wage in Santa Monica brought out a large group of local residents to the Santa Monica City Council meeting on Tuesday. The locals were forced to wait for hours while other business was being taken care of, but eventually they got their concerns across.
“I support our workers and that’s really where this discussion has to go,” said Jerry Rubin, a frequent speaker at council meetings and concerned citizen. “We should do everything we can to increase (minimum wage) to a higher amount.”
While the City of Los Angeles recently passed an ordinance to raise the minimum wage over the next five years to eventually reach $15 an hour in 2020, Santa Monica is looking at adopting a similar model. For many people in the local community and beyond, it’s something that is long overdue.
“I think the feeling in this community and many communities is that the time has come to raise the minimum wage,” Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown said. “I’ve heard even from businesses that the time has come and we can no longer ignore the plight of people we depend on that make our communities grow.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the first reading of a proposed minimum wage hike was discussed at great length by council members, staff, and about 60 members of the public. Finally, after much discussion and input from the community, council looks like they are heading in the direction of raising the minimum wage in Santa Monica. The issue will come to council again in December.
Most people at the meeting spoke in support of the proposed new law.
“The majority of us agree that a minimum wage increase is needed,” said Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Misti Kearns, one of the many speakers at the meeting.
While there seemed to be little debate about that point, other issues are still of to be fully resolved such as service fees vs. tips, paid time off, seasonal workers, education and enforcement, and a “hotel living wage” similar to the one passed in Los Angeles.
In fact, Santa Monica city leaders are looking closely at the minimum wage law that was recently passed in Los Angeles. As of July 1, 2016, the minimum wage in L.A. will increase to $10.50 per hour, with annual increases from there up to $12 (2017), $13.25 (2018), $14.25 (2019) and $15 per hour in 2020.
There will be a one-year delay for organizations with 25 or fewer employees.
Large hotels in L.A. are already required to pay at least $15.37 an hour to their workers.
The current minimum wage in Santa Monica is $9 per hour, but that is likely to change soon.
“I think we agree that the wages should be the same as Los Angeles,” Mayor McKeown said.
Dr. Michael Reich, an economic leader and one of the main speakers at the meeting, feels that it’s important to have consistency within the region concerning a wage hike, although he admitted that Santa Monica and Los Angeles are “obviously very different sizes.”
As he did at a special community meeting in August, Reich pointed out that many people who would benefit from a minimum wage increase are workers in the food service industry and retail trade. Reich said wage increases are important to keep the best workers staying at one place.
Once again, Reich mentioned that minimum wage increases are happening all across the country, and Santa Monica could soon follow. But taking care of all the details seems to be what is holding things up for now.
“If we really want to develop this as a model it’s going to take time,” Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Vazquez said. “I’d rather err on the side of caution. If the best case scenario is December or January I can live with that.”
Council member Gleam Davis feels it’s important that council take a comprehensive approach to address all the issues.
Added Council member Pam O’Connor: “In the end we want to bring people along.”
Mayor McKeown doesn’t want to see the issue delayed for too long, however. He doesn’t want a series of endless workshops to discuss the matter, but rather a new ordinance that happens soon.
“We’re serious; we’re moving,” he said.
City Manager Rick Cole said it will take about a month to draft a new ordinance and ready for a new presentation to council.
“We’ll endeavor to move this as quickly as possible,” he said.
But the next time the issue is likely to come up before council is in December.