$15 minimum wage goes into effect for small businesses in LA

A $15 minimum wage went into effect for small businesses in Los Angeles on Thursday after being gradually phased in for businesses since being approved in 2015.

The law was approved on a 14-1 vote by the City Council on May 14, 2015, and the minimum wage increase from $9 to $15 took place gradually over a five-year period. Last year, the law went into effect for large businesses, but smaller businesses had until today to begin giving workers a minimum of $15 hour.

"We can do right for our workers and do right for our businesses. We don't just tell businesses you got to up wages to $15 an hour, we're doing everything we can to help them,'' Mayor Eric Garcetti said, citing the city's grants to businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Al Fresco outdoor dining program that the city is working to make permanent.

The ordinance increased the minimum wage beginning July 2016, when it rose to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees.

The city minimum wage went up to $12 an hour by July 2017, $13.25 per hour by July 2018, $14.25 per hour by July 2019 and ultimately to $15 by July 2020.

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Businesses with 25 or fewer employees had to start raising their wages one year later and had until Thursday to reach the $15-an-hour mark. Once the wage reaches $15 per hour for both small and large employers, the ordinance calls for the minimum wage in 2022 to continue increasing based on the cost of living.

"I grew up in a union household, the proud son of a Teamster. I know the importance of providing fair wages to working people,'' Councilman Mitch O'Farrell said Thursday. "I also know firsthand how important it is to protect and look out for our small businesses.''

"Six years ago, the Los Angeles City Council led the way on a policy that is fair to workers and fair to businesses, and today, those efforts pay off in full. After the grueling pandemic and the toll it's taken on working Angelenos, the landmark $15 milestone could not come at a better time,'' he said.

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David Huerta, president of the Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West, said: "Service workers are the backbone of our economy; $15 per hour is a major milestone, and it comes at a critical time for all the service employees who have worked so hard and served on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. A fair wage is a necessary ingredient for workers to be treated with dignity, and Los Angeles should be commended for leading on this issue well before others.''