Minimum wage proposal seeks to put Los Angeles on path to $15 per hour (updated)

Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Eric Garcetti met with small business owners and members of Congress in Los Angeles to discuss efforts to increase the minimum wage.
Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Eric Garcetti met with small business owners and members of Congress in Los Angeles to discuss efforts to increase the minimum wage. Alice Walton/KPCC

A proposal that could increase Los Angeles' minimum wage to $15.25 per hour by 2019 was introduced Tuesday by members of the city council just as Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Eric Garcetti met to discuss the wage issue at an event in Lincoln Heights. 

Council members Mike Bonin, Curren Price, Gil Cedillo and Nury Martinez co-authored a motion that, in part, mirrors a wage proposal introduced by Garcetti on Labor Day. It calls for increasing the wage for all workers in Los Angeles to $13.25 per hour by 2017  and then increasing it annually based on the Consumer Price Index.

The council members are also requesting an independent study on how to increase the wage to $15.25 per hour by 2019. That would be one of the highest minimum wages in the country. 

"Los Angeles is already the poorest major city in America, and the growing disparity between the cost of living in Los Angeles and the income earned from working full-time at the current minimum wage, has  made income inequality one of the most pressing social, economic and civil rights issues facing the city," the four council members wrote in their motion. 

The council hopes to get an ordinance to the mayor's desk by January. Bonin, Martinez and Price said they hope Garcetti will agree to the $15.25 figure by then. 

"We certainly would like for him to agree to that but again, it's a benchmark for us to achieve," Price said at a City Hall news conference. 

The Mayor's Office did not have an immediate comment on the wage proposal. However, at an availability with the vice president, Garcetti said, "We have a measured approach that is bold, it is specific and it's going to get the job done."

The mayor and vice president met with members of Congress and a handful of small business owners at the L.A. Baking Company to discuss the minimum wage, both here in Los Angeles and nationwide. 

"No one in America should be working 40 hours a week and living below the poverty level," Biden said. 

Just last month, the L.A. City Council agreed to increase wages for hotel employees to $15.37 per hour beginning next summer. The city of Seattle has already approved a proposal to reach the $15 per hour threshold by 2017, and San Francisco is expected to vote on a similar measure in November. 

The $15 wage has long been supported by labor. The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy held a rally outside City Hall Tuesday morning in support of the wage. The group also urged the city council to require paid sick days.

Pro-business groups were quick to criticize the plan. 

"The city needs a significant, substantive and independent economic impact study on these and any wage proposals -- unlike the Berkeley study, which was merely a rationale created to support a conclusion already desired completed by a labor funded institute," said Ruben Gonzalez of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce. 

When Garcetti announced his wage proposal last month, he cited a study from UC Berkeley that said as many as 567,000 workers could see a pay bump if the minimum wage were increased to $13.25 per hour in Los Angeles. 

This post has been updated.

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