Business & Economy

Santa Monica City Council discusses raising the minimum wage — except with unions

Business owners attend a presentation on a potential minimum wage hike in Santa Monica at the Santa Monica Public Library (August 12, 2015)
Business owners attend a presentation on a potential minimum wage hike in Santa Monica at the Santa Monica Public Library (August 12, 2015)
Brian Watt/KPCC

The Santa Monica City Council is considering a proposal to increase the minimum wage on the same schedule as the city of Los Angeles.

Santa Monica and Los Angeles began studying the idea of a wage hike a year ago. Los Angeles officials gave final approval in June to a plan to raise the wage incrementally to $15 per hour by 2020. Days later,  Santa Monica began drafting its own ordinance and inviting local businesses and non-profits to public forums on the matter.

While the rate schedules are identical, Santa Monica city staff is recommending some differences from the L.A. plan when it comes to certain issues. The most controversial is an exemption to the wage hike for companies that employ union workers under a collective bargaining agreement. When the idea caused an outcry from business groups in L.A., the L.A. City Council set it aside for later discussion.  But Santa Monica is addressing it head on.

"Staff recommends providing for union supersession, which is consistent with the City’s living wage and provides flexibility for employers of employees represented by a valid collective bargaining agreement," says the staff report

Santa Monica's living wage is $15.37 an hour, which only applies to hotel workers, city employees and workers of contractors doing business with the city.

Business groups are crying foul over the union exemption, and the L.A. Times editorial page has weighed in, calling such an exemption a "galling display of hypocrisy by labor leaders."

The business-friendly Employment Policies Institute is also criticizing the Santa Monica staff recommendation for a union exemption, and has arranged for a mobile billboard to circle Santa Monica Hall during Tuesday's meeting.  The billboard calls Santa Monica the "home of Big Labor's minimum wage loophole."

Follow KPCC's Brian Watt's coverage of the meeting below: