Activists submit ballot proposal for $15/hour wage in Los Angeles

A proposal submitted to the City Clerk's Office last week would increase wages throughout Los Angeles to $15/hour.
A proposal submitted to the City Clerk's Office last week would increase wages throughout Los Angeles to $15/hour.
Ken Scarboro/KPCC

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Minimum wage workers in Los Angeles could get a big boost.  

The City Clerk's Office confirmed Monday it received a ballot measure proposal that, if ultimately approved, would require every business in the city to pay employees at least $15/hour. The state's minimum wage is currently $9/hour. 

The move follows Seattle's approval of a new structure that will gradually increase wages to the $15 threshold by 2017.  However, activists pushing the L.A. measure want the higher wage to take effect immediately if it is approved by voters, as soon as November.  Small businesses and nonprofits would see a two-year delay before implementation of the new wage. 

The Los Angeles Workers Assembly and Peoples Power Assemblies are two of the groups behind the wage proposal. Neither was immediately available for comment.  According to their ballot proposal, "It is essential that all persons working in our community earn wages that ensure a decent and healthy life for them and their families. Current earnings are not nearly enough for them to meet their families' basic needs, particularly given the costs of living and housing in Los Angeles."

Organizers will need to gather more than 61,000 signatures to get the measure qualified for the ballot. It would then be up to the Los Angeles City Council to either approve the wage increase or place the issue on the ballot for voters to decide. 

The proposal drew immediate criticism from the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. 

"The proposed hike is too much, too soon, and will send business out of Los Angeles," said Stuart Waldman. "An almost 70 percent increase will almost certainly result in companies cutting hours and jobs. Unskilled laborers will fall out of the workforce because employers are going to look for more experienced, skilled workers at this pay rate."

Yusef Robb, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's Communication Director said: "We are currently reviewing this proposal and so we cannot comment on it directly. Overall, Mayor Garcetti's top priority is the prosperity of L.A. families, and the minimum wage plays a key role in the health of our communities."

month ago, a Los Angeles City Council committee was discussing a $15/hour minimum wage, but only for non-unionized hotel workers.