Los Angeles plans to boost the $9-an-hour base wage to $15 by 2020, affecting as many as 800,000 workers.

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council tentatively agreed Tuesday to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, joining a trend sweeping cities across the country as elected leaders seek to address stagnating pay for workers on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

The ordinance would boost the $9-an-hour base wage to $15 by 2020 for as many as 800,000 workers, city officials say, and make L.A. the largest U.S. city to adopt a major minimum-wage increase. Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle already have adopted similar laws.

“Make no mistake,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who was instrumental in shaping the wage-increase plan’s final form. “Today the city of Los Angeles, the second-biggest city in the nation, is leading the nation.”

Wages compared

California’s current minimum wage of $9 an hour is already higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. California’s hourly wage will increase to $10 on Jan. 1.

Seattle: Companies with 501 or more employees will pay their workers $15 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Companies that also pay toward their employees’ medical plans have an additional year to comply, and small businesses must comply starting between 2019 and 2021.

San Francisco: As of May 1, hourly employees must be paid at least $12.25. The minimum wage will gradually increase on July 1 of each year until it reaches $15 in 2018. The wage will increase annually based on the Consumer Price Index.

Oakland: Earlier this year, the city required that all minimum-wage employees be paid $12.25 an hour. The wage increase and paid leave were approved by voters in November.

Washington, D.C.: Wage advocates are trying to get a measure on the 2016 ballot that would increase wages to $15 an hour. On July 1, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50.

Chicago: By 2019, workers will make at least $13 an hour.

New York: Mayor Bill De Blasio wants the city’s minimum wage to increase to $13 in 2016 and $15 by 2019.

Los Angeles Times

Tuesday’s 14-1 vote was the latest demonstration of organized labor’s clout at City Hall. Through close to a year of often-emotional debate, labor leaders never gave ground on their central demand that the minimum wage rise to at least $15. Their council allies ensured that a less far-reaching wage increase proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to allay concerns in the business community was marginalized in the final months of discussion.

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“Today, help is on the way for the 1 million Angelenos who live in poverty,” Garcetti said Tuesday.

Maria Elena Durazo, an official at the national labor organization Unite Here and former head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said L.A.’s leadership on raising the minimum wage “makes it more real to pass it … on a broader basis, like the state and eventually federal” level.

Labor leaders say they remain dissatisfied with the gradual timeline set for raising the base wage, but the harshest criticism of the law came from the ranks of L.A.’s small-business owners. Many say the mandate will force them to lay off employees or leave the city altogether.

“The very people [council members’] rhetoric claims to help with this action, it’s going to hurt,” said Ruben Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. He said the only ways for businesses to absorb their new labor costs would be lay off employees, reduce their work hours or move.

The move toward a higher citywide minimum wage gathered steam last year when the council adopted an ordinance raising base pay for workers in the city’s hotel industry to $15.37 per hour.

In the final stages of the process, Krekorian sought to incorporate provisions that would ease the wage hike’s impact on businesses, such as gradually phasing in the increase to $15 over the next five years and giving businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 25 employees an extra year to comply.

Beginning in 2022, yearly wage increases would be pegged to the consumer price index — a key provision of the law that backers say addresses past failures to adjust base pay for inflation.

On Thursday, a day after the council committee approved a version of the proposal, business leaders loudly objected to an obscure provision that could have required employers to grant workers 12 paid days off each year.

Critics said the paid-leave mandate, which had not been explicitly discussed or formally studied during months of debate, was slipped into the proposal at the last minute. Garcetti last week called for additional study of a paid-leave requirement’s economic impact.

Council members agreed Tuesday to place a paid-time-off policy on a separate track for legislative review.

The council’s plan will now be submitted to the city attorney’s office, which will draft an ordinance that will return to council members later this year for approval.

After that, the wage increase would be signed into law by the mayor, with the first wage boost — to $10.50 per hour — taking effect in July 2016.

15 Now Tacoma could get on ballot

A proposal to raise Tacoma’s minimum wage to $15 an hour could be headed for the city’s November ballot. A group called 15 Now Tacoma turned in signatures to Pierce County officials late Monday hoping to quality its initiative for the Nov. 4 ballot.

The News Tribune says that the group needs signatures from at least 3,160 registered Tacoma voters. The proposed measure calling for a $15 minimum wage exempts small businesses, or those with gross revenue of $300,000 per year or less.