Los Angeles Unions Push To Be Exempt From $15 Minimum Wage

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During a Los Angeles City Council hearing Friday, organized labor continued its push to have unionized companies exempt from a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

Last week 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 some in the labor movement to ask for an exemption for unionized companies and workers. Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, notes that though he supports the measure, allowing exemptions will ultimately help workers. His union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

“Raising the minimum wage in Los Angeles is a tremendous victory,” Hicks said in a prepared statement issued to The Daily Caller News Foundation. Hicks notes he supports the measure as is and that though the exemption would be a helpful addition, he recognizes further debate might be necessary.

“There are a number of outstanding issues that are in need of further review, including the collective bargaining supersession clause,” he said. “This clause preserves and protects basic worker rights and that is why nearly every city in California that has ever passed a minimum wage ordinance has included these protections.”

“I would never do anything to undermine the rights of any worker,” Hicks added. “We look forward to engaging with the City Council and others to ultimately bring about the best, comprehensive ordinance that serves all workers in Los Angeles.”

Though some supported that idea of exempting unionized companies, others residents that spoke at the hearing were not happy with the idea, calling the unions hypocritical.

“It was a real surprise that in the 11th hour that labor was saying, ‘Well, we basically support a sub-minimum wage if a company decides to enter into collective bargaining,'” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said. “And that really is a complete contradiction to what they’ve been saying the last couple of months.”

Though the draft for the measure released last week did not include any exemptions for organized labor, it is not at all unusual for unions to opt out of laws which raise the minimum wage. According to the report, “Labor’s Minimum Wage Exemption,” which was released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in December, many labor unions are exempt from the various local minimum wage laws they support.

“Not all minimum wage increases come in the same form,” the report notes. “Some local ordinances in particular include an exemption for employers that enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union.”

The report explains that these sort of “escape clauses” are often designed to encourage unionization because they make membership a low cost alternative for employers. This, explains the report, raises questions about who these minimum wage laws are actually meant to help.

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