Pasadena to discuss minimum wage increase

File: Pasadena City Hall on April 6, 2009.
File: Pasadena City Hall on April 6, 2009.
Andy Castro/Flickr Creative Commons

Pasadena city leaders on Wednesday evening will hold the first of a pair of public discussions on a possible minimum wage increase.

The Economic Development and Technology Committee was tasked by the City Council in July to begin evaluating a new ordinance shortly after Los Angeles passed one of its own.

L.A.'s ordinance sets the minimum wage at $10.50 per hour starting in July of next year and raises it steadily to $15 per hour by 2020. It's just one of several cities to implement or consider an minimum wage increase in recent months, even as statewide efforts are underway.

Pasadena's meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Villa-Parke Community Center on East Villa Street. A second discussion is scheduled for November 19 at Caltech’s Beckman Institute Auditorium.

Aside from L.A., Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have approved phased-in increases to a $15 an hour wage. Los Angeles County followed shortly after the city of L.A., and the University of California has adopted a similar plan.

A Pasadena city staff report notes that the cities of Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Long Beach are currently looking into potential increases, too.

And two separate statewide efforts are underway, one a ballot initiative that would raise the minimum wage by $1 an hour annually until it reaches $15 an hour in 2021, and the other a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco that would lift the minimum wage to $13 an hour in 2017 and adjust it upward based on the consumer price index after 2019.

The economic development committee has looked closely at the L.A. ordinance as a potential model, but the local chamber of commerce opposes any such plan.

The chamber commissioned studies on the economic impact of an increased minimum wage earlier this year, and in August its board voted to strongly oppose a minimum wage increase in Pasadena.

"The takeaway was that what's good for Los Angeles isn't necessarily good for Pasadena, and that there are significant enough differences in the makeup of our community and our economy that doing a $15 an hour minimum wage in 2020 could actually result in reduced employment, closing businesses, things not helpful to our economy," Paul Little, president and CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, told KPCC.

According to the chamber, an independent analysis by researchers at Boston College found that "Pasadena residents are likely to bear the burden of a minimum wage hike through increased costs to businesses, while limitedly benefiting from the effects of increased wages due to the limited amount of workers that live in Pasadena."

The city estimates fewer than 14,000 people who live in Pasadena work there, and city staff estimate a minimum wage ordinance would affect only about 4,000 of those residents.

"I think one of the questions we'd like answered is exactly who is it that's going to benefit and how are they going to benefit, because one of the things that our studies find and is consistent across most studies of minimum wage is the people whose jobs actually are threatened are those same minimum wage employees, because there going to be the ones who get their hours cut back, they're going to be the ones who aren't hired at the higher wage," Little said.

The chamber has suggested the city wait and study the impact on other communities first, at least until after a planned increase to $10 of the statewide minimum wage in January. Little added that he hoped the city would undertake an independent economic study of its own.