People demonstrate outside City Hall before the Los Angeles City Council approved a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour in Los Angeles, Calif., June 3, 2015.
Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

L.A. officially passes law raising minimum wage to $15 an hour


The Los Angeles city council voted Wednesday to officially approve a measure that will boost the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.

The vote was 12-1, with two members not voting. The bill now goes to the desk of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has said he’ll sign it.

Los Angeles will become the largest city in the nation to require $15 an hour, joining Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, and SeaTac in that group. The victory represents perhaps the most significant concrete success for the movement to raise low-wage workers’ wages, which kicked off in 2013.

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The measure passed last week by a vote of 13-1, but because that vote wasn’t unanimous, a second vote was required. 

“With this vote, the minimum wage will no longer be a poverty wage in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said last week.

Under the bill, the city’s minimum wage for anyone who works at least two hours within city limits would gradually rise by a dollar or so each year, until reaching $15 per hour by 2020, for businesses with more than 25 employees. Smaller businesses will be on a slightly longer timeline to reach $25 per hour.

Starting in 2022, the minimum wage will continue to increase to keep pace with the cost of living.

Some economists have suggested the move could also put pressure on the many smaller cities in the L.A. region to raise their wages too, as they compete for workers. 

Still to be determined is whether the law will apply to workers covered under collective bargaining agreements. Labor leaders pushed for the hike, then said they want such workers to be exempt, in order to not to affect the freedom of employers and employees to come to their own arrangements. Wage laws in San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, and San Jose exempt workers who are under collective bargaining agreements, but Seattle’s does not.

The victory comes after news last month that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will appoint a wage board to consider raising wages for fast-food workers in his state. The board held its first public hearing Saturday.

And Senate Democrats recently introduced a proposal, supported by the White House, to raise the federal minimum wage, currently at $7.25 an hour, to $12 an hour. 

Bartolome Perez has worked at McDonald’s since 1993, when he made $4.25 an hour. Twenty-two years later, that’s up to $10.75 an hour, but Perez said he still needs to work a second job, for the L.A. school district, to support his family.

Perez, who was attending a convention of fast-food workers in Detroit Sunday, told msnbc that making $15 an hour will ultimately allow him to no longer work the second job, and spend the extra time with his family.

But he said the struggle isn’t over.

“We need to continue to fight for a union,” Perez said. “Because it’s important to win the money, but everybody needs respect and dignity.”