After the triumphant 2014 passage of Los Angeles’ $15.37 hourly minimum wage ordinance for city hotel workers, there came a moment of puzzlement for many at City Hall and elsewhere.
Historians may remember 2015 as the year of the minimum wage — and for good reason. Twenty-one states and multiple cities raised the minimum wage in the past 12 months, scarcely two years after the “Fight for $15” was dismissed as a pipe dream by some observers. The past year also saw other major advances for working Americans. Here are ten of the most important:
1) Bottoms Up: L.A. Minimum Wage Increase Caps Historic Year for Low-Wage Workers
This summer the City of Los Angeles enacted the most far-reaching minimum wage increase of any municipality in America. L.A. County did the same soon after, which means that over the next five years nearly one million people will see their pay rise to $15.37 an hour. They will also be covered by some of the strongest wage theft protections in the nation, ensuring they actually get the increases mandated by law.
The line of people standing outside the event in downtown Los Angeles snaked out the door and down to a sidewalk—but there were no velvet ropes and it wasn’t at Nokia Center or L.A. LIVE. The venue was the Kenneth Hahn County Hall of Administration.
The hundreds who waited Tuesday morning in muggy heat had come to weigh in on a measure before the Board of Supervisors to increase the minimum wage in L.A. County’s unincorporated areas.
Perla Lagunas and her kids traveled from North Hills in the San Fernando Valley to show support. “I represent a low-income community,” she said. Her mother was a garment worker who struggled with bills and groceries. “My mom worked with people who wouldn’t pay her a good wage. We grew up so poor– sometimes we didn’t have food. We want to let the community know—wake up!”
Representatives from the National Council of Jewish Women stood in line to enter the hearing.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich has hired a corporate-sponsored lobby group and PR firm to conduct a so-called “study” of the minimum wage.
Under Antonovich’s orders, the County is going to pay $55,000 to the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute (EPI) to help him undermine a plan to create a countywide minimum wage that would reach $15 an hour by 2020, similar to the one recently passed by the City of Los Angeles. The policy would cover about a million employees in the unincorporated areas of the nation’s largest county.
Any one of the supervisors can authorize the county’s CEO to commission an analysis of a policy being considered without a vote from the other four members. That’s what Antonovich — who chairs the board meetings and prefers to be called the county’s “mayor” — did at the end of June.
Antonovich asked EPI to do extensive research on for-profit and nonprofit employers in the county’s unincorporated areas –
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 to adopt a citywide minimum wage of $15/hour by 2020. The next day, marching behind a giant banner that read, “McDonald’s: $15 and Union Rights, Not Food Stamps,” 5,000 cooks and cashiers show up at the company’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, to kick off the largest-ever protest to hit the burger giant’s annual shareholder meeting.
These events represent the two battlegrounds in the growing war over wages taking place across the country. One strategy focuses on getting elected officials in local and state governments to adopt minimum wages above the federal level. The other strategy involves putting pressure on major employees — typically highly visible companies that depend on positive public relations to gain consumers’ dollars — to raise the wages of their employees.
The two strategies complement rather than compete with each other,