West Hollywood Approves Highest Minimum Wage Increase In The Country

minimum wage, west hollywood

The City Council of the City of West Hollywood has unanimously approved a draft Ordinance to establish a citywide minimum wage and guaranteed leave provisions. The increase makes this the highest minimum wage hike in the country.

The draft Ordinance will create a hotel worker minimum wage of $17.64 per hour starting on January 1, 2022, and will create a phased approach for minimum wage increases for large businesses and small businesses starting on January 1, 2022 with adjustments every six months to create consistency in the minimum wage citywide by July 1, 2023. Starting on July 1, 2023, the citywide minimum wage for all businesses will be $17.64 (plus two cost of living adjustments as part of the phased schedule for increases). Following that, the citywide minimum wage for all businesses will be increased each July 1 by the Annual Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) Adjustment. The City Council approved a revised version of the draft Ordinance at its Adjourned City Council Meeting, which took place on Wednesday, November 3, 2021, via teleconference.

The approved draft Ordinance must return to the City Council for second reading to be enacted; this in anticipated to take place on November 15, 2021.

Video links to Council meetings are posted at www.weho.org/wehotv and at www.youtube.com/wehotv. Current and past City Council meeting agendas are available at www.weho.org/councilagendas.

“The minimum wage discussion can be a challenging one,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister. “I want to ensure that all voices are heard in this discussion and that workers in our city are provided a wage that they can live on, that our businesses can recover in a post-COVID economy, and that our residents on limited incomes are able to afford goods and services in our city. I believe the approach we’ve crafted to phase implementation of the citywide minimum wage over time moves us forward and meets all three of these goals.”

“As we recover from the pandemic, it is important to ensure recovery includes everyone,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne. “There is undeniable income inequality in this nation and wages have remained stagnant compared to the growing cost of living. This has caused workers to remain in poverty no matter how hard they work. I am proud of our unanimous decision last night to raise the minimum wage for workers to one of the highest levels in the country and include sick leave and personal time off provisions for all. West Hollywood has now proclaimed that we want our workers to be as successful as our businesses. We took into account the needs of working people as well as the requests from businesses to phase in the higher wage. West Hollywood has always been a creative leader on many fronts and now we are a leader in creating equity for workers and helping to close the gap in income inequality.”

“Raising the minimum wage to the highest in the country is us using our small shoe, our 1.9 square-mile shoe, that we know leaves an enormous footprint,” said Councilmember John D’Amico. “We can change the world and I have a sense we are starting something much bigger for workers across the country.”

“As someone who has worked a minimum wage job, I understand the challenges of being able to cover the growing costs of basic expenses such as rent and food without even taking into effect the massive number of other bills people now face due to the substantial pay gap in our country,” said Councilmember John M. Erickson. “Together, as a City Council, we unanimously put the needs of working people — and of the unique businesses that make our city great — on the table. We began this conversation 10 months ago and we focused on how we, as a city, can lead the way in helping people earn more, while also prioritizing paid sick time and other important provisions critical to uplifting the health of our community, overall.”

“West Hollywood has raised the wage and is, once again, leading the national conversation,” said Councilmember Lindsey P. Horvath. “Cost of living is rising everywhere — it’s getting more and more expensive to live, work, and raise a family. Our minimum wage should reflect that reality and I am proud to be part of this thoughtful step for our City. The wealth generated by an increased minimum wage will raise more people into the middle class, drive more consumer spending, and create a more stable, prosperous, and business-friendly economy. This victory belongs to the courageous people who came forward to say we can and must do better. I am ever-grateful for the workers who commit themselves every day to making our City such a special place.”

As background, the City Council held a special study session on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, to discuss potential changes to the City’s minimum wage, following Council direction to staff in February 2021 to review the minimum wage in West Hollywood and how the minimum wage relates to the living wage. During the study session, the City Council directed staff to draft an Ordinance establishing a citywide minimum wage and hotel worker minimum wage. The City Council’s direction included the following items:

  1. Establish a citywide minimum wage for small and large businesses;
  2. Establish a citywide hotel worker minimum wage;
  3. Include sick leave provisions in the citywide minimum wage;
  4. Include provisions for transitional job programs, learners’ programs, non-profits, collective bargaining exemption, and service charges.

The City Council, on October 18, 2021, reviewed a draft Ordinance prepared by City staff and provided additional direction for staff to return with a revision of the draft Ordinance.

During its Adjourned City Council Meeting on Wednesday, November 3, 2021, the City Council received this revision and then took steps to refine it with a phased approach for implementation, as follows:

  1. Effective January 1, 2022, hotel employers shall pay hotel workers no less than $17.64 per hour, to be increased each July 1 by the annual CPI-W adjustment. The paid sick leave, vacation, or personal necessity time set out in the draft Ordinance goes into effect for these hotel workers on this date;
  2. Effective January 1, 2022, employers with 50 employees or more shall pay employees no less than the hourly wage of $15.50 per hour; On July 1, 2022, such employers shall pay employees no less than the hourly wage of $16.50 per hour and paid sick leave, vacation, or personal necessity time as set out in the draft Ordinance to go into effect on this date; On January 1, 2023, such employers shall pay employees no less than the hourly wage of $17.50 per hour;
  3. Effective January 1, 2022, employers with fewer than 50 employees shall pay employees no less than the hourly wage of $15.00 per hour; On July 1, 2022, such employers shall pay employees no less than the hourly wage of $16.00 per hour and paid sick leave, vacation, or personal necessity time as set out in the draft Ordinance to go into effect on this date; On January 1, 2023, such employers shall pay employees no less than the hourly wage of $17.00 per hour.
  4. Effective July 1, 2023, a citywide minimum wage will go into effect for all businesses. This minimum wage rate will be $17.64 per hour, plus two CPI-W adjustments: one on July 1, 2022, and one on July 1, 2023. The specific CPI-W adjustments for July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023 are not yet known, as the Consumer Price Index has not yet been determined for these dates, but it is likely that the citywide minimum wage rate on July 1, 2023, will be more than $18.00 per hour. Annually thereafter, the minimum wage rate will increase by the annual CPI-W adjustment.

The number of employees shall be determined as follows:

(a) For businesses operational in 2019 or earlier, the number of employees for calendar year 2022 and 2023 shall be based on the average number of employees employed per quarter during the 2019 calendar year.

(b) The number of employees shall be determined using the employer’s total number of individual employees within the United States, regardless of where those employees work.

Additional provisions in the draft Ordinance include:

  1. Provision for the distribution of service charges as follows: Amounts collected as service charges shall be paid to employees and hotel workers equitably and according to the services that are or appear to be related to the description of the amounts given by an employer or hotel employer to the customers; and
  2. Provision for transitional employers as follows: Transitional employers that provide supportive services and transitional jobs for the hardest to employ may pay each employee in a transitional job an hourly wage that is below the established minimum wage during the first 18 months of the employee’s work in the transitional job.

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