Business & Economy

Minimum wage report: Supervisor Kuehl criticizes summary 'slant,' Knabe says 'pretty fair'

L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl stands in her home office, where she hangs family photographs and TV Guide covers from her acting career.
L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl stands in her home office, where she hangs family photographs and TV Guide covers from her acting career.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl took aim at the takeaways from a county-commissioned report on the impact of a hike in the minimum wage in L.A. County on Sunday.

The report, done by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, summarized the findings of several other earlier studies and included a survey of one thousand county businesses about the likely affects a wage raise would have on employers and employees.

County Board of Supervisors often commissions studies from the LAEDC, but Supervisor Don Knabe pointed out that the board does have other options: “It could have been the L.A. Chamber (of Commerce). It could have been USC, Pepperdine, UCLA.”

L.A. County is considering following the city of Los Angeles in increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. 

In its summary, the report said upping the minimum wage is not likely to reduce poverty in the county.

Among its other findings: 

“Overall, I’m fine with it.  I think it was pretty fair and validates what I’m saying,” Knabe said of the LAEDC’s report. “ I think they [the report authors] waffled a little bit in certain areas, but on the other hand, those are the areas that I think that are really hardest to judge and that’s:  they can’t get inside what happens if this [minimum wage increase] is forced upon a small business.”
Aside from Kuehl and Knabe, the remaining three supervisors on the 5-member board declined to make themselves available for comment on the report. The report doesn’t make a specific recommendation as to whether the County should proceed with the minimum wage increase, and it’s unlikely the authors will do on Tuesday.
Knabe is concerned small businesses have not spoken up frankly about the adjustments they’ll have to make when the minimum wage goes up.  He believes the business owners have been overwhelmed at public hearings by supporters of raising the wage.
“They don’t want to fight. They want to make a big deal out of something because they don’t want people with placards out in front of their businesses,” Knabe told KPCC. “They’re fighting to make payroll each and every day.”
Knabe said the Board could decide to slow down on Tuesday, listening to the LAEDC presentation and public comment but delaying a vote to a future meeting. "This was just thrown upon us last Tuesday,” he said. “Look how long it took over at the City of LA to get through the debate and questions answered, so no one was really prepared to deal with it a week later."

On Sunday, Kuehl, who's been pushing for the change, said she was disappointed with summary, which she charged didn't match the actual data from the report. 

"Generally, I think they did a good job trying to bring these disparate studies together, and they did a great job in their thousand-business report," Kuehl said.

"I was disappointed, not in the report, but in the slant — really unexpected and unexplained slant — of the executive summary."

She added that businesses overwhelmingly said they would not have to lay people off or reduce their hours, and that few had plans to move if the county moved forward with the plan. The summary, she said, had used aggregated percentages to make their case that employers would cut back on hiring.

"Instead of saying that 81 percent of businesses would not do these things, they said 19 percent said they might have to," she said. "The truth is zero businesses overall said they would lay people off," though some said they may have to mitigate their costs in one way or another. 

Kuehl said that the report's summary read more like an op-ed than an amalgamation of the information. 

"I just encourage everybody to look at the actual data, and not the kind-of slanted choices they made for their executive summary."  

You can do just that below (full screen).

This story has been updated.