Los Angeles is the latest municipality to stop waiting for federal or state action on minimum wage legislation. The L.A. City Council voted 14-1 to raise its current $9 an hour minimum wage to $15 by 2020, a move that will give a pay raise to half the city’s workforce.
Critics of the increase warned that the city would become a high-wage island as employers flee to surrounding jurisdictions. The bill’s supporters vowed to leverage their victory into a higher minimum wage for all of Southern California.
Nationally, eight cities have passed ordinances that will raise wages over the next several years, while five more mull similar proposals.
Wage hike opponents are not sitting on their hands. In Oklahoma, the state Legislature passed a law barring municipalities from following in Los Angeles’ footsteps. Oklahoma joins Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin in restricting municipalities’ ability to either raise the minimum wage or require employers to provide paid sick leave.
Similar measures have been introduced in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina and Washington State.
Behind the scenes, activists are maneuvering on both sides of the issue. Minimum wage hikes have been one of the UNITE HERE hospitality union’s major issues. On the other side, the conservative American Legislative Affairs Council has drafted model legislation for the states that wish to deny municipalities discretion on wage and benefit issues. The approach enjoys the support of many chambers of commerce and hospitality industry groups.