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Minimum Wage Vote: Let’s Have the Courage to Pass a Comprehensive Wage Police for Los Angeles

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CRITICAL VOTE AND LA’S FUTURE-Today (Tuesday) the City Council could enact one of the nation’s most aggressive plans to address urban poverty. By approving a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 we could help lift more than 600,000 local residents out of poverty. 

Over the course of seven months, we have held more than seven meetings, spanning dozens of hours, to debate this issue, but as we near closer to making this proposal a reality some concerns have been raised, specifically around recommendations approved by the committee to include a paid time off component in this historic policy. 

Some assumed that calling for “consistency” with other City wage policies in the draft ordinance would mean an automatic a mandate for 96 hours of paid time off for all employees, which has been the City’s required amount in the past. Others added that the provision was included unexpected and at the last minute. 

Let’s be clear, we heard from dozens of people during our hearings who talked about how critical paid leave is to their livelihood. 

Paid leave has also been included in every wage policy approved in Los Angeles since 1997. Each of those ordinances has helped cement LA’s commitment to the idea that paid time off should not be a luxury for a few, but a right for all. 

Consistency is critical to future legal challenges for this and other wage policies, but more importantly as a City we should be proud of the progressive stances we have taken - and we should stay the course when the safety and wellbeing of our residents is at stake. 

Staying consistent, however, does not mean prescribing a one size fits all policy for all employers. Despite having nearly 20 years of experience with living wage ordinances, the City has never taken on a policy this broad and special considerations should be studied and debated. That is why I will be co-introducing an amendment today that will give the Council an opportunity to study the issue of paid leave further so that we can define its parameters. 

Currently, at least a dozen cities in California have included some level of paid leave in their living wage ordinances including Santa Barbara, Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego. 

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LA’s workforce - the waiter, the housekeeper, the car wash attendant and the line cook - all want to know what we are going to do to make their working conditions improve. Higher wages are essential, but they don’t help if workers are afraid of being fired if they get a cold or need to care for a sick child. 

That is what concerns residents in my community like Cayetano Juarez. Cayetano has spent the last decade working as a line cook, and has never had paid days off. The one day he got sick with a stomach flu, his employer did not allow him to go home until he vomited – this after he’d spent all day preparing meals. He was fired two weeks later. 

It is those working our lowest paying jobs, who often struggle with paying for proper healthcare and childcare, and they need the most protection.  

I urge my colleagues to have the courage to pass a comprehensive wage policy for our City that lifts workers out of poverty while giving them the right to care for themselves and their families without fear of losing their means to survival.

 

(Curren D. Price, Jr.  is Los Angeles Councilman for the 9th District. Reach him at @CurrenDPriceJr

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 41

Pub: May 19, 2015

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