Business & Economy

Pasadena City Council approves minimum wage hike; Glendale could be next.

Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale hasn't changed much since it's founding in 1950. Then, minimum wage was 75 cents an hour.
Moonlight Rollerway in Glendale hasn't changed much since it's founding in 1950. Then, minimum wage was 75 cents an hour.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Pasadena will join Long Beach and Santa Monica in the wave of Los Angeles county cities moving towards raising the minimum wage.

In a meeting that went into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the city council voted unanimously in favor of raising the minimum wage gradually over the coming years to $13.25 per hour in July of 2018. At that point, city staff will study the impact of the increase on the local economy to determine whether to continue the increases t0 $15 per hour by 2020.

The council's vote directs the Pasadena city attorney to draft an ordinance, which must return to the full council for approval in a future meeting. 

The move affirms what L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he hoped would happen after his city approved its own minimum wage hike: that neighboring jurisdictions would follow L.A.'s lead, and raise the minimum wage on a similar schedule. In addition to Santa Monica, Long Beach and Pasadena, a minimum wage hike is set to take effect in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles county, and one is under consideration in West Hollywood. 

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian has long said his city would take a wait-and-see approach and let L.A. be the minimum wage guinea pig. "We want to do the right thing but we want to make sure there are no unintended consequences," Najarian told KPCC last October

But on Monday, Najarian said that Glendale city staff has already begun to study potential impacts of a wage hike.  "We definitely want to discuss it," said Najarian, who's also a candidate for L.A. County Supervisor. "It’s timely as many of the other jurisdictions move forward," he added.  

California's minimum wage just increased to $10 per hour on Jan. 1. The first incremental wage increase in the city of Los Angeles and the county's unincorporated areas takes effect in July, when it goes up to $10.50 per hour.  Najarian said Glendale would wait one or two months after that to see what "success or challenges develop in Los Angeles." But he refuted the notion that Glendale could gain an advantage by offering a haven to businesses fleeing a higher minimum wage.

“Let’s say it’s almost unfair to create jobs in that manner,” he said, adding that most businesses would discover that the costs of relocating would be greater than the cost of paying workers more.  "We don’t expect that to happen. In fact, we don’t want it to happen. We don’t want businesses to locate out of L.A. or any other municipality just because we’re paying a lower wage," he said.

The Glendale Chamber of Commerce hasn't taken a position on a potential minimum wage hike, but its president and CEO Judee Kendall has heard the rumor that it's now on the table in her city.

"I can't say that I've spoken with a single business person that has been excited about it," Kendall told KPCC. "They're worried that they're going to have to adjust the number of employees that they have, and that it's going to be burdensome," she said.

But she acknowledged that if Glendale chooses not to keep pace with L.A.'s wage hike, businesses there could lose some low-wage workers who look for jobs in places where the minimum wage is higher.

"That's reasonable that you would have that concern," Kendall said. "You're going to lose one way or the other."