Explaining Southern California's economy

Why unions lead the $15 minimum wage fight, though few members will benefit

Rusty Hicks

Ben Bergman/KPCC

“Union members and non-union members have a strong interest in seeing our economy grow," said Rusty Hicks, the new head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which represents over 300 unions.

Labor unions have led the fight to raise the minimum wage in several American cities, including Los Angeles, where the City Council is considering two proposals right now that would give raises to hundreds of thousands of workers (to $13.25 an hour by 2017 and $15.25 an hour by 2019).

But few of the unions' members have benefited directly from the initiatives. So why do unions care about a $15 wage for non-union workers? 

It’s part of a long-term strategy to protect the interests of their members, labor leaders say. They also see an opportunity to raise the profile of unions after years of falling membership.

"We can’t be the movement that’s just about us," said David Rolf, an international vice-president of SEIU, who led the first successful $15 minimum wage campaign in SeaTac, the town in Washington that is home to the region's similarly named airport. 

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Potential NFL stadium moves closer to going on Inglewood ballot this summer

Inglewood Stadium

Courtesy Hollywood Park Land Company

A rendering of he new stadium and complex to be built near the Forum in Inglewood was released by the Hollywood Park Land Company, Kroenke Group and Stockbridge Capital Group earlier this month.

A measure that would allow an 80,000-seat NFL-caliber stadium to be built in Inglewood could be on that city’s ballot by this summer after developers submitted almost three times as many signatures than needed for a voter initiative.

“22,216 signatures were submitted to the city clerk today,” said Gerard McCallum, project manager with the Hollywood Park Land Company. “It was unbelievable. The response was more than we could have ever anticipated.”

Normally, before construction can begin on any project there has to be an environmental review, but that can take a long time and time is something in short supply for St. Louis Rams Owner Stan Kroenke and his plan to move the team to L.A.

“We would be going through another three year project process, and the current construction wouldn’t allow that,” said McCallum, referring to the redevelopment of 238 acres of the old Hollywood Park site that was permitted in 2009.

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Want a job in LA? Be a nurse, don't work in manufacturing

AIDS Healthcare Foundation Offers Free Meningitis Vaccinations

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Tom Rachal (R) receives a free meningitis vaccine from Dr. Wayne Chen at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation pharmacy on April 15, 2013 in Hollywood, California. Los Angeles County's unemployment rate is 7.9%, down from 9.2% a year ago, and once again it was healthcare that added the most jobs: 22,000.

If you want a job in Los Angeles County, you’re best off being a nurse or a hotel worker and you’re less likely to find employment in manufacturing. 

We’re getting our first look at the employment numbers for 2014, which show mostly good news: California’s unemployment has fallen to 7 percent, the lowest rate in five and a half years. (The final numbers come out in March)

The state’s job growth outpaced the rest of the country for the third straight year, though it slowed slightly towards the end of the year.

California added jobs at a 2.2 percent annual rate last year, outpacing the nation’s 1.8 percent rate. 

Los Angeles County fared the worst as far as seasonally adjusted year-to-year job gains among California's major metropolitan areas, according to The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.:

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Overall unemployment in state, LA County keeps falling, but some places still struggle

Walter Flores

Brian Watt/KPCC

Walter Flores was unemployed for 8 months in 2014 but is now working in sales for Workforce Solutions in Compton

California's unemployment rate continued its decline in December, ending the year at 7 percent, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department.

But in Compton, Willowbrook and the Florence-Graham section of Los Angeles County, it remains about double that, data show.

“You might have work this week. But next week, you won’t have work,” said James Hicks, 36, 0f Compton. He's worked in warehouses through staffing agencies, but said the jobs have always been temporary.

Statewide, California has added jobs at a faster rate than the United States for three straight years, according to Robert Kleinhenz, Chief Economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. He pointed out the statewide unemployment rate is now where it was June 2008. 

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Small firms and nonprofits like KPCC struggle with technology's diversity problem

Mary Ann de Lares Norris

Brian Watt/KPCC

Mary Ann de Lares Norris is Chief Operating Officer of Oblong Industries. She brings her dog LouLou to Oblong's downtown LA headquarters.

Alex Schaffert

Brian Watt/KPCC

Alex Schaffert, KPCC's Managing Director of Digital Strategies and Innovation at the weekly meeting of KPCC's tech staff. Eric Richardson joined the meeting from Atlanta on Google Hang-out.


KPCC recently reported on the tech world’s diversity problem. Technology firms face challenges in hiring diverse staffs of its coders, web developers and software engineers.

It’s also a challenge at nonprofits such as Southern California Public Radio,  parent of 89.3 KPCC, which has always sought to build a staff that reflects the region it serves. The section of that staff that develops the KPCC app and makes its website run is all white and mostly male.

But a small talent pool means the diversity challenge is even greater for nonprofits and even smaller tech firms.

“The first problem is that all of the people working for me are male,” says Alex Schaffert, the one female on KPCC’s tech team.  “I’m kind of focusing on maybe getting another girl into the mix.”

Schaffert can use the term “girl” because she happens to be the leader of the tech team:  KPCC’s Managing Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation. 

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