City Council votes to establish minimum wage

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Independent Staff Report

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The City Council has tentatively approved an ordinance that will raise the minimum wage for people employed in the city. The ordinance also includes guaranteed leave provisions.

The council voted unanimously Nov. 3 to create a hotel worker minimum wage of $17.64 per hour starting Jan. 1, and created a phased approach for large and small businesses with adjustments every six months that will create consistency in the minimum wage citywide by July 1, 2023. 

On that date, the citywide minimum wage for all businesses will be $17.64 (plus two cost of living adjustments as part of the phased schedule for increases). Following that, the citywide minimum wage for all businesses will be increased each July 1 by the annual consumer price index adjustment. 

The City Council is expected to give final approval of the draft ordinance Nov. 15.

“The minimum wage discussion can be a challenging one,” Mayor Lauren Meister said. “I want to ensure that all voices are heard in this discussion and that workers in our city are provided a wage that they can live on, that our businesses can recover in a post-COVID economy, and that our residents on limited incomes are able to afford goods and services in our city. 

“I believe the approach we’ve crafted to phase implementation of the citywide minimum wage over time moves us forward and meets all three of these goals.”

The council’s action once again establishes West Hollywood as a city that pushes a progressive agenda.

“West Hollywood, … is once again, leading the national conversation,” Councilwoman Lindsey P. Horvath said. “Cost of living is rising everywhere — it’s getting more and more expensive to live, work, and raise a family. 

“Our minimum wage should reflect that reality and I am proud to be part of this thoughtful step for our city. The wealth generated by an increased minimum wage will raise more people into the middle class, drive more consumer spending, and create a more stable, prosperous and business-friendly economy.” 

The council directed city staff last February to review the minimum wage in West Hollywood and how the minimum wage relates to the living wage.

The council held a special study session Aug. 31 to discuss potential changes in the minimum wage and directed staff to draft an ordinance establishing a citywide minimum wage and hotel worker minimum wage. 

That ordinance was reviewed by the council Oct. 18, and staff was provided additional direction for a final revision, which was approved Nov. 3 

“As we recover from the pandemic, it is important to ensure recovery includes everyone,” Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne said. “There is undeniable income inequality in this nation and wages have remained stagnant compared to the growing cost of living. This has caused workers to remain in poverty no matter how hard they work. 

“West Hollywood has always been a creative leader on many fronts and now we are a leader in creating equity for workers and helping to close the gap in income inequality.”

“Raising the minimum wage to the highest in the country is us using our small shoe, our 1.9 square-mile shoe, that we know leaves an enormous footprint,” Councilman John D’Amico said. “We can change the world and I have a sense we are starting something much bigger for workers across the country.”

“We began this conversation 10 months ago and we focused on how we, as a city, can lead the way in helping people earn more, while also prioritizing paid sick time and other important provisions critical to uplifting the health of our community, overall,” Councilman John M. Erickson said. “As someone who has worked a minimum wage job, I understand the challenges of being able to cover the growing costs of basic expenses such as rent and food without even taking into effect the massive number of other bills people now face due to the substantial pay gap in our country.”

The council’s action was considered a victory by a local union, Horvath and former City Councilman Heilman, who first proposed creating a citywide minimum wage in 2016. At that time, a proposal to establish a $15 an hour minimum wage in the city was defeated on a 2-3 vote. 

“Our union is proud to have led the fight to pass a living wage in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and now West Hollywood,” said Kurt Petersen, co-President of Unite Here Local 11. “Workers across all industries, especially in hotels who have been hardest hit by the pandemic, deserve a living wage. 

Peterson added the vote was proof of the bold leadership and action needed to ensure workers recover from the effects of this pandemic.

Norma Hernandez, a housekeeper at the Mondrian Hotel, also was pleased with the council’s action. 

“Having a living wage will not only help me and my co-workers, but every single worker in the city of West Hollywood,” Hernandez said. “I know that with the current wages, we cannot live in the city we’ve helped build.” 

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