Santa Monica Lookout
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Santa Monica Mayor Wants Higher Living Wage for City Employees

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 27, 2014 -- The City of Santa Monica could give its lowest paid employees their single largest pay hike in almost nine years if the City Council approves it next month.

At the request of Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day, City staff will look into raising the minimum wage for City employees -- and employees of contractors working for the City -- from $14.08 an hour to $15.37 an hour, the largest single increase since the ordinance was adopted in 2005.

The proposed increase to the City’s “sustainable” wage comes on the heels of a battle between the local hospitality workers’ union and the South Carolina-based OTO Development.

In November, the City Council unanimously approved OTO’s two proposed six-story hotels but only after developers ceded to union demands that they pay workers $15.37 an hour.

At the November meeting, “the union and the clergy gave compelling testimony about what the dollar amount of what a living wage should be,” said O’Connor, whose official request to study the wage increase will be heard Tuesday.

Before casting her “yea” vote in November, O’Connor said that she believed that the City should match the wages it requires private developers to pay.

“Frankly, I think it would be hypocritical” if the City didn't, she told The Lookout Friday.

The change, which the Council will consider at its first meeting in February, will also affect private, for-profit businesses that have contracts with the City for more than $54,000.

When the Council originally adopted the ordinance in 2005, it established the minimum wage for City employees at $11.50 an hour.

It has inched up every year to keep pace with inflation, reaching $14.08 last June. But if the new increase is approved, it will be the biggest single pay increase for the City’s lowest paid employees since the ordinance was first adopted.

City officials said that Santa Monica’s improving financial forecast makes the pay hike possible.

“The overall financial effect is significant, but manageable given our mid-year forecast showing revenues running ahead of projections and expenditures well within budget,” said City Manager Rod Gould.

The increase is manageable partly because it would only affect a fraction of the City’s employees.

“It will only affect two or three City wage classifications as the rest are paid a higher wage,” said Gould, though he didn’t immediately specify the exact number of employees the change would impact.

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