A group of local residents hope to give working families “a shot at joy beyond struggle,” explained John Srebalus, officially rolling out the concept of a local minimum wage ordinance last week to the South Pasadena City Council.
“Our city currently follows the minimum wage set by the state of California,” said Srebalus, the group’s spokesperson. “We’re asking for an increase only for businesses with more than 25 employees.”
He said the pay hike will match the wage of neighboring Los Angeles, Pasadena and Altadena. “You’ll see the $2.25 increase for mostly fast food and national retail,” noted Srebalus.
On Monday night, the Pasadena City Council voted 7-1 to continue on a path to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour on July 1, 2020. The approved resolution calls for the hourly rate of $14.25 or $13.25 for small employers with fewer than 25 workers on July 1, 2019. On July 1, 2020, the wage climbs to $15 or $14.25 for smaller employers.
How would South Pasadena’s ordinance be different than others? “We understand the challenges of small business,” explained Srebalus, “so we’re including a small business exemption. Nothing changes for businesses with fewer than 26 employees. The state minimum still applies. This is more generous to small business than neighboring ordinances.”
Mom and pop stores, stressed Srebalus, would be unaffected because they’d fall under the 26-employee threshold.
“According to the research, raising the wage is more gain than pain,” he added. “We see that, as people working in South Pas can afford to live in South Pas, there’s less community and better air quality, as recognized in the state statute. Also, a raise in the wage will disproportionately benefit workers of color, who are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs. There are proven health and cognitive benefits. And as female restaurant servers rely more on wages and less on tips, they’re more likely to stand up to sexual harassment from customers. This has been covered in the Atlantic, New York Times, Associated Press and other outlets.”
Srebalus expects the community to get behind the effort of an ordinance raising the minimum wage in town.
“Despite the perceptions to the contrary, the data shows that wages are less of a factor in business relocation than access to markets,” he said. “We’re not scaring off development, and further, our market is stronger with more money in our workers’ pockets. McDonald’s crew members can take their raise across the street to Ken’s Shoes or next door to Mamma’s Pizza. In addition, the leading academic research shows no disemployment. No net jobs are lost. And let’s remember that good ethics make good branding – fair trade starts at home.”
Srebalus says leveling the economic playing field is morally right and fair, giving families a shot at joy beyond the struggle and debt. “It reflects the compassionate and progressive values of the residents I’ve spoken with,” he said. “Anecdotally, they favor our proposal roughly 10-1.”
U.S. labor law and a range of state and local laws set the minimum wage. Legislation has passed in multiple states that significantly raise the minimum wage. California is set to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour by January 1, 2023.
“It’s a really important topic,” noted South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian, saying, “The city is subject to state legislation with regards to the wage increases. Some cities have passed policies that are more accelerated than state laws, such as Pasadena and L.A. Pasadena is currently evaluating the effect of their policies. We will be watching that carefully.”
The mayor stressed that the council and city staff have a process that involves “thoughtful and thorough examination of all impacts of any new policy,” she said. “Raising the minimum wage will have impacts on many stakeholders. In order to fully understand these impacts, council would need to direct staff to allocate the resources and time to study this issue above all the others that have been prioritized by the strategic planning that took place last year. We will be discussing the priorities for the year ahead for the city at the next strategic planning cycle in March.”
Srebalus said it was important to make a formal introduction of the group’s proposal during the council meeting “just so people are aware of the broad strokes of it,” he said. “We’ve been canvassing and taking meetings with the Chamber of Commerce and some of the council members. We’re just ready to take it to a state of wider awareness that will help us generate the support we’ve already seen.”