At a tense Tuesday meeting, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors chose not to vote on a proposal that would raise the minimum wage in the County's unincorporated areas. They postponed voting on the ordinance which, if passed, would raise the minimum wage on the same schedule recently adopted by the City of Los Angeles.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mike Antonovich arrived at the meeting dissatisfied with a report the board had commissioned from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC). Antonovich pressed report author Christine Cooper about a range of details, from the wage hike's potential impact on non-profits, to the costs to businesses that operate very close to others in neighboring cities that won't raise the minimum wage.
"Do you have the impact on businesses that raise prices to pay for higher minimum wages that are located directly across the street from an incorporated city?" Antonovich asked Cooper. "We do not," she replied.
In presenting her report, Cooper outlined positive and potential negative impacts of raising the minimum wage, but she insisted, "we do not have a position on this policy. We are neither for it nor against it."
Cooper estimated that if implemented throughout the county, 1.2 to 1.6 million workers could be affected by the minimum wage increase.
"Many of these workers will see increased incomes and will have more to spend on daily necessities. That's certainly good news," Cooper said. But she urged the Supervisors to consider how businesses will adjust to increased costs because "jobs are predominantly generated by firms."
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who'd already taken issue with the report's executive summary, acknowledged Cooper was "between a rock, a hard place, and a hammer."
Supervisor Hilda Solis also wanted more specific data on the size and number of businesses in the unincorporated areas. She said she favors a minimum wage increase but also wants the County to help very small businesses with the transition. She estimates there are hundreds of "mom-and-pop" businesses with fewer than five employees in the unincorporated East L.A. part of her district.
"I want to see how we can help alleviate those economic stresses that are already being faced by these immigrant-owned businesses," Solis told KPCC. "We're talking about taquerias and panaderias."
The board heard public comment from a range of interested parties, from minimum wage workers, to farming organizations, to representatives of Chambers of Commerce from Redondo Beach to Santa Clarita. At one point, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti spoke and encouraged the Supervisors to follow his city's lead.
"Our message today to the 2.7 million people of Los Angeles County who live in poverty: I hope that help is on the way," Garcetti said. "We must end poverty wages in Los Angeles.''
The Supervisors will vote on the issue on July 21.