At a debate held last week by the candidates for L.A. County Supervisor, it was reported in the L.A. Times that they both agreed that it is a “myth” that a minimum wage hike would lead to job losses. Well … I think it is time to dispel that “myth”.
The Mayor’s proposal would raise the minimum wage in 2015 from the recent State-imposed rate of $9 to $10.25. In 2016, it would be raised to $11.75 and in 2017 it would go to $13.25. Thereafter it would be tied to cost of living and be adjusted annually.
The proposed hike when fully implemented amounts to a 65 percent increase in the minimum wage. However, when you add in payroll tax increases, workers comp increases and unemployment tax increases, one business told me that they had computed that the effective increase is 88 percent. On top of that, it puts wage pressure on all of the other positions at a business, who will be dissatisfied that their salaries are not also being raised.
The one thing that so many public officials do not seem to realize is that a business must operate at a profit. Many businesses are just barely making it. With tight operating margins, they are fearful of what hikes in the minimum wage will do to their bottom line.
George Abou-Daoud, one of our most energetic entrepreneurs who owns several restaurants in the Hollywood area, told us that when the minimum wage increased from $8 to $9 on July 1st, he had no choice but to close two of his Hollywood restaurants – Mercantile and Township. These restaurants were operating on a tight margin and the hike pushed them over the precipice. Now, 40 former employees are out of a job.
George tells me that he is willing to meet with any politician and show them his books on these closed restaurants so that they can get a better understanding of what it takes to operate a business. He encourages our public officials to speak with businesses like his to get the facts rather than the economists at Berkeley. He supports measures for wage increases, but only if other taxes and fees that would rise are fixed.
The Hollywood Chamber understands the reasoning behind the Mayor’s proposal. We agree that no one working full time should be living in poverty. However, any increase in the minimum wage must be tailored to minimize the impacts on small businesses. Here are the points that our board of directors approved last week as mandatory to earn the Chamber’s support of a hike in the minimum wage:
First, it is essential that the minimum wage increase be phased in over a longer period of time at smaller increments. Perhaps there could be two schedules – one for businesses with more than 500 employees and another for those with less than that.
Second, the business community wants to see immediate and comprehensive reform of the L.A. Business Tax. The City of L.A. currently has the highest business tax in the County – a whopping 9.5-times the average for the other 87 cities. We are never going to be able to address the job growth issue in this City until the Council addresses this onerous tax.
Third, the City needs to abandon its efforts to impose a minimum wage of $15.37 on hotels. It makes no sense to single out an industry like this. There is NO reasonable justification for doing this to our hotels. It places an unreasonable burden on existing hotels and will prove to be very damaging to the effort to attract new hotels to this City.
Fourth, the City needs to actively work (and not just give lip service) to get the State to change its requirement that tipped wage earners also receive the same minimum wage as other employees. California is only one of seven states that have this ridiculous condition. In addition, current State law requires that employers pay taxes on all the tips their employees receive, although it is not income to the establishment. Tipped wage earners already earn significantly more than the minimum wage. By removing this requirement, it makes it easier for businesses to help those truly in need.
Fifth, there needs to be a carve-out for non-profit organizations, who will not be able to perform their work in the community if the minimum wage hike goes into effect.
These steps will not completely offset the pain to businesses from the proposed hikes, but they will certainly help.
As discussions go forward on the proposals, we hope to address what is the real myth being circulated – that you can take $1.8-billion out of the pockets of small businesses and have no adverse impact on jobs!
Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 22 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.