Business & Economy

LA County considers minimum wage hike that follows LA city's

L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl says
L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl says "it makes a lot of sense to do the same as the City, at the same time."
Brian Watt/KPCC

Saying the county should follow its largest city's lead, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl introduced a motion Tuesday to raise the minimum wage in the unincorporated areas of the county on the same schedule the city of Los Angeles chose to follow last week.  

"There's momentum building, and it's just time to lift people out of poverty in the county," Kuehl told KPCC as the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors began its weekly meeting.  "I think it makes a lot of sense to do the same as the city at the same time."

By a near unanimous vote last week, the Los Angeles City Council gave final approval to a plan to increase the citywide minimum wage gradually to $15 per hour by 2020.  Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the ordinance on Saturday.  The first increase will come in July of next year, when the wage goes up to $10.50 per hour.

While the city council drafted and tweaked its proposal, the County Board of Supervisors called on the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) for an analysis of the four studies submitted to the city on the potential economic impact of the wage.  The final report is expected later this week, but a draft has posted on the county's website.

The draft report says the city of Los Angeles has nearly 40 percent of the payroll jobs in the county, while the unincorporated areas have almost 10 percent of the jobs.  Last week, the Santa Monica City Council voted to begin drafting a wage hike ordinance. 

"I think it's important to have a regional solution because then you don't have a lot of 'shopping' back and forth, or disruption, or confusion," Kuehl said.  By "shopping," she meant workers looking for a higher wages in areas that have adopted them and businesses considering moves to areas where the minimum wage is lower.  "We don't want people moving to be the cheapest employer, but also they [businesses] are cognizant of the fact that they could lose workers who are seeking a higher paying job." 

The draft report from the LAEDC also included results of a survey of 1000 businesses throughout the county. That survey found 28 percent of the businesses said moving to an area with a lower minimum wage was "not likely at all," but the rest wouldn't rule out the possibility. No business surveyed said a higher minimum wage would force it to close, but 62 percent said they'd likely have to raise prices.  

County Supervisor Hilda Solis also introduced a motion asking county staff to report back on ways the county can support small businesses through the transition to a higher minimum wage.  "The dream of higher wages should also include opportunities for our small businesses," Solis told the board. 

The motions of Kuehl and Solis will be put on the agenda for a vote during next Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting, when authors of the LAEDC's analysis are also expected to present their report.