New $15 Minimum Wage Means Bad News For Los Angeles Nonprofits
A plan by the Los Angeles City Council to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020 could result in an anti-gang charity firing half of their cases– men and woman already at risk of returning to a life of crime.
Late last month the city council voted 14 to 1 on a tentative agreement to raise the city’s minimum wage. Though some specific provisions have yet to be finalized, a draft of the measure prompted adamant debate. Despite advocating for the wage increase, even the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, asked for an exemption for unionized businesses.
Seattle and San Francisco, which led the way in passing a $15 minimum wage, have already seen some businesses having to close because of the increased cost of labor. Now, nonprofits in Los Angeles fear they may too become victims of the push for a so called living wage. Homeboy Diner is among them.
The nonprofit, which operates on the second floor of City Hall, is a well known and respected anti-gang program. Now the group has a different reason to be at the City Hall, to express its concerns and ask that its clients in its transitional jobs training program be exempt.
“It would be heartbreaking, because I know a lot of them personally,” Jose Osuna, the group’s director of employment services, told the Los Angeles Times. “For a lot of them, we’re the … only organization that’s able to serve them.”
If the nonprofit doesn’t get an exemption, it will have to eliminate 60 of its 170 trainee positions by the time the wage reaches $15.
Councilman Curren Price, who helped to craft the wage increase, argues that nonprofits with financial hardships already have relief from the new minimum wage with a one year delay.
“Philosophically, I do not feel comfortable saying to transitional workers that, because they have faced challenges in their lives, they deserve to be paid less than every other worker in the city,” Price countered in an email statement to the Los Angeles Times.
Even Rusty Hicks, the County Federation of Labor official who requested that unionized businesses be exempt, doesn’t think Homeboy Diner and the other nonprofits should be exempt too. Hicks has become a target for critics for asking for an exemption after being one of the main voices advocating for the wage increase in the first place.
Hicks argues that while unions and businesses should be able to negotiate the wages that work best for them according to their collective bargaining agreement, nonprofits, like Homeboy Diner are more like trainee programs and therefore shouldn’t need the exemption.
Nevertheless, even other labor groups have come out to condemn Hicks for wanting unionized companies to be exempt from the law.
“Mr. Hicks was reported as saying that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law,” the Los Angeles Workers Assembly declared on its Facebook page. “This statement, frankly, is shocking and a betrayal to the labor movement, and the result of a strategy that puts the negotiations behind closed doors with politicians over organizing the power of the people to win $15 now.”
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