LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in a move labor activists hailed, while business owners in the affected areas braced themselves for higher costs.
The increase will be phased in during the next five years, beginning July 1, 2016, when the minimum wage will increase from $9 to $10.50 an hour, until it reaches $15 in July 2020. The deadlines for small businesses with less than 26 workers allow an extra year to reach $15 by 2021.
The decision impacts unincorporated parts of the county over which the Board of Supervisors has authority and follows a move made earlier by the City of Los Angeles that has already drawn the ire of many business owners, including apparel manufacturers, some of which have raised the specter of a migration to cities not considering wage increases.
Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors vote creates a patchwork of wage policies as other cities, such as Santa Monica and West Hollywood, now also consider their own increases.
The agenda item drew a crowd of union members, workers, business owners, chambers of commerce executives and other business group representatives as more than 100 people shared their views on the hourly increase. Among those speaking before the board was City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who signed a $15 minimum wage law last month. Those increases will also occur over a five-year period.
“Poverty is very, very expensive,” Garcetti said before the board. “Poverty’s expensive for our families. Poverty’s expensive for our government. Poverty’s expensive for our economy. Today’s vote is a vote like we had in Los Angeles…for self-sufficiency.”
While many from the business community voiced concerns about the impact the increased wages would have on their ability to hire and grow, others took a different tack, anticipating the board’s decision to approve the wage increase.
Tracy Rafter, founding chief executive officer of the Los Angeles County Business Federation — an organization representing 272,000 businesses that employ some 3 million within the county — said the group supports the establishment of a small business initiative to help firms with the wage increases, which “can provide some relief from the cumulative effects of overlapping policies that raise the cost of doing business.”
She still reiterated the organization’s concern with the wage increase, saying that at least one-third of its members would be forced to reduce jobs and hours to comply with the law.
Ken Wiseman of AMS Fulfillment told the board the wage increases would leave him hunting for new facilities to move his company’s operations. AMS provides fulfillment services to companies in the footwear, apparel, cosmetics and other consumer products industries and is located in an unincorporated part of Valencia, Calif.
“I ship for 40 companies, international and national,” Wiseman told the board. “They really don’t care about just our minimum wage here.”