Santa Monica City Hall (Daniel Archuleta daniela@www.smdp.com)

Not to be outdone by its neighbor to the east (and north and south), City Council asked city officials to draft an ordinance, like the one put forth by Los Angeles, that would raise minimum wage.

Los Angeles plans to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.

City Councilmembers Gleam Davis, Sue Himmelrich, and Tony Vazquez put the item on the agenda. Council voted unanimously to move the process forward.

In September, council directed city officials to watch L.A.’s progress as it wrestled with the pay boost.

“The city of Los Angeles, obviously being the big player in the region, had to move it,” Davis said, “but the idea was that to make it, for lack of a better term, viable at the city of Los Angeles level but also to make sure that Santa Monica was not at a competitive disadvantage, that we should follow their lead and they’ve now provided a lead and so it makes sense for us to go forth.”

Himmelrich said that L.A. shouldn’t be an island and lauded an idea put forward by city officials that they commission studies from the same institute that L.A. used.

“The city of Los Angeles had five studies done in connection with their minimum wage ordinance, including an independent study that was commissioned by L.A. as opposed by other interest groups, and was done by an institute at Berkeley,” Himmelrich said. “In the peer reviews, this was the best reviewed report of all, and if we chose that group, which has already done a lot of groundwork on this, to do this.”

This would make things go faster, she said.

Mayor Kevin McKeown stressed the importance of getting the public involved.

“Some of us, and I’m one, were around for the original living wage in 2000 and watched what happened,” he said, “and I would like to engage people upfront this time and make sure we do have an understanding and a cooperation, which I think in the context of a regional collaborative effort, is quite possible and I’ve spoken to members of our business community and I don’t think we have the same situation we had back in 2000.”

Additionally, he asked that the ordinance cover tipped workers, who, Davis pointed out, are largely governed by state law.

He asked that city officials cull language from development agreements as they relate to union supersession, which allows unions to negotiate lower wages in exchange for certain benefits. Finally, he expressed a need to enforcement on issues like wage theft by employers.

Himmelrich asked that city officials also consider requiring additional terms, like days off.

“I did have a conversation with our new City Manager Rick Cole about this,” Vazquez said, “and he was excited that we were moving forward because I think he was a big part of it with the Mayor Eric Garcetti on trying to move this as quick as possible and to get all the cities around L.A.on board so it is an even playing field.”

Cole comes to Santa Monica from Los Angeles, where he worked as a deputy mayor.

City workers and contractors are already paid $15.37 per hour, the result of an ordinance passed by council last year.

dave@www.smdp.com

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