West Hollywood has set a record that’s bound to make conservatives lose their lunch as its City Council passed a motion this week to raise the local minimum wage to $17.64 a hour, the highest in the U.S.
The current minimum in WeHo is $13 to $14 an hour, depending on the number of workers a business employs, and the new wage will take effect on January 1 for hotel workers and July 1 for everyone else, according to ABC 7.
Right now, the record-holder is Emeryville, CA, which raised its lowest legal wage to $17.13 in July, compared to the federal rock bottom of $7.25 an hour, which has been that way since 2009, and might just rot there forever.
The council says it took the action to “keep workers and their families out of poverty” and to “enable workers to meet basic needs and avoid economic hardship”—an especially high bar in Los Angeles, where MIT estimates the minimum living wage to be $19.35 an hour.
Local Taye Baldinazzo is all for the hike, telling the station, “I’m very much in favor of raising the minimum wage. I’ve had parents who worked low-income jobs, so I understand that kind of struggle. And I just think everyone deserves to be able to live a normal lifestyle.”
Some business leaders say the increase will cripple them, especially after the financial shock and awe of the pandemic.
Particularly put out by the news are restaurant owners. Although pretty much anyone who’s worked a restaurant job in the last, oh, decades knows the industry is among the more abusive, thieving, and just plain miserable rackets operating in plain sight, restaurateurs say that this, at last, is a bridge too far.
During the council meeting Wednesday, TV millionaire Lisa Vanderpump—who also owns a restaurant in WeHo—begged, “I just implore you to really give this a lot of thought because I do believe if we raise the minimum wage now it’s going to be counterproductive.”
Cary Mosier, owner of Gracias Madre, also greeted the prospect with some trepidation, told NBC Los Angeles. “It’s a 30 percent wage increase. It’s already a challenge to operate a restaurant under normal circumstances. Now, they’re jacking up the labor costs, and we’re still operating on borrowed money from the government, dealing with capacity issues and all the challenges of the pandemic.”
While dealing with such issues, these titans of industry might reflect on the fact that 4.3 million people—roughly three percent of the national workforce—simply walked away from their shitty jobs in August.