Some of Los Angeles’s lowest paid workers are about to get a big raise after the City Council last week approved a controversial measure raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
That decision made Los Angeles the largest city in the country to adopt such a high minimum wage. But what will the economic impact on the nation’s second-largest city and will cities in Southern Nevada follow suit in the future?
The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, or PLAN, has lobbied for a state $15 minimum wage, which is double the lowest basic rate of $7.25.
Communications director for PLAN Laura Martin told KNPR's State of Nevada that Los Angeles' decision was a big morale booster for those fighting to see the minimum wage increased in Nevada.
She said Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco, all cities who have adopted a higher wage standard, realize the difference it can make.
"They understand what workers have been saying for the past two to three years. Billion dollar corporations, fast food companies they're getting rich by paying poverty wages and pushing people into public services," Martin said.
She said counties and cities understand their economies will not bounce back from the Great Recession without improved wages for low-wage workers.
However, not everyone agrees. The LA Chamber of Commerce strongly opposed the idea. Ruben Gonzalez with the chamber told NPR that the only way businesses would be able to absorb the costs of increased wages is by cutting jobs.
"What I feel right now is sadness, thinking of all those folks who just lost their jobs and don't even know yet," Gonzalez said after the vote.
Martin disagrees with that argument. She said there will job increases because people will have more money to spend.
"We don't think it will result in major job losses because it's going to put money in the pockets of millions of low-wage workers who spend it and they tend to spend it where they live," Martin said.
She said some poor neighborhoods in Las Vegas will see community improvements as more people have money to spend.
The idea of cities and counties setting their own minimum wage, instead of waiting for Congress to make a move, is growing. Twelve cities, from Oakland, California to Louisville, Kentucky, moved to increase the minimum wage last year. Two more made the change this year and four more are talking about it.
Martin said fast food and other low-wage workers aren't asking for a lot.
"Fast food workers aren't asking to live in mansions or drive Cadillacs they're just asking for enough money to be able to afford their bus pass to get to work," Martin said.
Laura Martin, communications director, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.
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