Santa Monica City Council approves ordinance to raise the minimum wage

Santa Monica has been following L.A.'s lead on an overall minimum wage increase but has taken more time on related measures
Santa Monica has been following L.A.'s lead on an overall minimum wage increase but has taken more time on related measures Phil Scoville/flickr Creative Commons

The Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday night to approve an ordinance to raise the minimum wage. 

City staff have been working on the ordinance for months, ever since Los Angeles moved to raise its minimum wage gradually to $15.00 per hour for most businesses by 2020, starting with a hike to $10.50 in July. 

The wage increase will actually have a larger effect outside the city limits.

Donovan Wilson, 20,  attends Santa Monica College and works at Forever 21 on the Third Street Promenade. He said a chunk of his paycheck goes toward one thing: "the bus and train."

He lives in South Los Angeles and commutes on public transit.

Justin Cruz, 23, also works at a minimum wage job on the Third Street Promenade. He works at the movie theater.

"You take care of the bills and after that, you don’t have enough to take care of what you want to do," Cruz said.  "I don't have a car right now, so I need extra money to pay for a car, plus insurance."

He lives in Marina Del Rey, but is trying to find an affordable place to rent with co-workers closer to the theater. For Cruz, the minimum wage is only good for living "paycheck to paycheck."

Santa Monica City Council members have expressed strong support for the overall wage hike and in liberal Santa Monica, there hasn't been much complaint about the move.

It's gotten push back from some business groups for a provision that would exempt unionized workers. The ordinance also includes carve-outs for seasonal and hotel workers and a provision giving more paid leave to employees than the state requires. The ordinance must come back before the council for a second reading in two weeks.

"I think that $15 an hour by 2020 is fair," said Joseph Demeo, a music executive who also lives in Santa Monica.  He was taking a lunch break at the Santa Monica Whole Foods on Wilshire Boulevard.

"Whatever changes that makes in the cost of doing business: I'd be more than willing to shoulder my portion of that responsibility," Demeo said. 

"I want to know why they’re waiting so long – until 2020. Why can’t it be done within the next year?" asked Jacki Mosk, a retired designer, as she walked her dog in Santa Monica's Douglas Park.

Mosk, who who has lived in Santa Monica for 25 years, dismissed worries that prices in stores and restaurants might go up as businesses try to cover the wage hike.

"It might  become more expensive," she said, " but you’re talking about people who have three jobs.  I mean, how are they supposed to support themselves?"

This story has been updated.

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