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West Hollywood Approves $17.64 Minimum Wage, Highest In Nation

WEST HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) – The West Hollywood City Council early Thursday morning approved what will be the highest minimum wage in the nation.

"We made the dream of all of our city come true by raising our minimum wage," said West Hollywood Mayor Pro Temper Sepi Shyne

In a unanimous vote just after 12 a.m., the city council unanimously approved a $17.64 minimum wage. The measure will take effect Jan. 1 for all hotel workers, and July 1 for all other workers.

It aligns the minimum wage for hotel workers to those in the cities of both Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The measure also includes 96 hours of paid sick, vacation and personal leave.

"It's important for me and for everybody and for everybody working here in West Hollywood," said Sandra, a hotel worker. 

According to CNN, when it takes effect it will be the highest minimum wage for any city in the U.S. The Northern California city of Emeryville currently holds the nation's highest minimum wage, at $17.13 per hour, CNN reports.

In the city of L.A., the minimum wage for employers with 26 or more workers currently sits at $15 per hour and $14.25 for employers with 25 or fewer workers.

California's statewide minimum wage is $14 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $13 per hour for those with 25 or fewer.

This also comes after the West Hollywood City Council back in July approved an ordinance providing added protections and compensation to hotel workers. The ordinance allows for workers who were laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic to get their jobs back. It also ensures that workers are paid extra when required to clean more than 3,500 square feet during an 8-hour workday.

Earlier this year, many cities across the Southland approved "hero pay" emergency orders requiring larger grocery stores and pharmacies to pay their workers an extra $5 an hour due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Residents and business owners had mixed reactions to the new wage hike with some believing it doesn't do enough to help workers and others believing it puts a burden on business owners, especially ones decimated by the pandemic.

"Really what they're proposing is a starving wage," said resident Jordan David. 

According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a person needs to make more than $19 an hour to support themselves in L.A. or about $37,000 a year.

Business owners including reality T.V. star Lisa Vanderpump believed that the minimum wage increase would actually have a negative reaction and drive businesses either out of business or out of town.

"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," she said. "You're going to see so many people who find it unsustainable... I know that people that I've talked to whose leases are coming up for renewal and they don't want to renew their lease in West Hollywood if the minimum wage isn't in line with Los Angeles and Beverly Hills—why would they?"

However, other business owners support their workers making more money but believe now is the wrong time to do so considering the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

"When people say it's no big deal, it's just two dollars, I don't have any money in my bank account," said restaurant owner David Fanarof. "I owe $180 thousand back rent. I've taken out loans."

According to the new ordinance, business owners who would have to lay off over 20% of their employees can apply for a one-year waiver.

Even though officials know this is a polarizing issue, they hope to increase the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2025.

"This shouldn't just be a city for elites," said Councilmember Lindsey Horvath. "I think that's what the conversation is really about."

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