Los Angeles raising minimum wage to $15 by 2020

In a big win for workers and their allies, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 on May 19 to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 for large businesses and to that level by 2021 for smaller ones in the nation’s second-largest city.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor was part of LA Raise The Wage.org, a coalition that campaigned hard for the hike. Raise The Wage cited studies showing the city’s minimum wage hike could aid 800,000 low-paid workers – fast-food workers, janitors, retail workers, and health care workers.  That’s one of every four workers in L.A., the coalition said.

With the increase, L.A. joins an ever-lengthening list of cities and states that, fed up with congressional dysfunction on raising the federal minimum wage, have acted on their own. The first Los Angeles hike, to $10.50 an hour, would take effect July 1, 2016 for large enterprises and July 1, 2017 for those employing 50 people or fewer.

The business lobby, and especially the restaurant industry, opposed raising the city’s minimum wage.  The council gave them one concession, dropping a paid sick leave provision. Raise The Wage also said the restaurant lobby also pushed for a subminimum wage. It lost.

“Our city has taken a much-needed, significant step toward lifting hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty,” said Raise The Wage Co-convenor Laphonza Butler after the vote. “It is critical that no Angeleno — whether they’re workers or owners of small businesses and nonprofits — is left behind,” added fellow co-convenor Rusty Hicks.  Some non-profits could get a waiver, but only if their CEOs had pay limits, Raise The Wage noted.

Raise The Wage said the city’s minimum wage hike would especially help restaurant servers and bartenders, as “46 percent are on public assistance while restaurants pulled in $8 billion last year. And tipped workers, the majority of whom do not work in the restaurant industry, face daunting challenges, including wage theft.”

Photo: Workers celebrate the victory of LA’s minimum wage being raised to $15 by 2020.  |  Damian Dovarganes/AP


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.