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Minimum Wage Movement: California Dreamin’

The minimum wage movement appears to be having a domino effect. In June 2015, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed into law a bill raising the minimum wage from $9 an hour to $15 over the next five years after the City Council had passed the legislation by a near unanimous vote in May. Los Angeles became the largest city in America to guarantee workers at least $15 an hour. Ironically, Los Angeles labor leaders are pushing the City Council to exempt unionized employees from the new minimum wage.

According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, Mike Casey, the outgoing president of Unite Here Local 2 in San Francisco — a city whose $15 minimum wage law includes a collective-bargaining exemption — rejected suggestions that such clauses are intended to pressure businesses to unionize. "This is not some cynical thing," Casey said. "It gives us more latitude and more flexibility at the bargaining table. It will be difficult for unions to justify having some of its own members earn a subminimum wage while at the same time lobbying for an overall increase in the minimum wage.

In July, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2021, impacting County-controlled areas, including its 100,000 or so employees. According to Chris Tilly, director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the County’s move puts “both economic and political pressure” on smaller cities in Los Angeles County. Areas with a higher minimum wage, he said, will attract “the most talented of the low end of the work force” away from lower-wage areas. Some manufacturing operations could move to areas with cheaper labor costs, he said, but restaurant and retail businesses that choose sites based on customer demand are not likely to relocate.

Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands, said municipalities that do not raise the minimum wage could entice companies to relocate within their boundaries. But the increased demand for labor would probably lead to a rise in the minimum wage in those communities, Sohn said, though not likely as high as $15 an hour. “In purely economic terms, it's simply a matter of supply and demand,” he said.

The economic impact of such large minimum wage increases is not fully known, but there is no doubt that such increases will have a major impact on unions and businesses.

©2022 MICHAEL BEST & FRIEDRICH LLPNational Law Review, Volume V, Number 238

About this Author

Robert Mulcahy, Michael Best Law Firm, Private and Public Sector Labor and Employment Attorney

Rob is a skilled negotiator whose practice includes both public and private sector management labor and employment law. His work includes National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proceedings, collective bargaining, contract administration and arbitration proceedings.

Rob also has extensive experience working on employment discrimination matters and wage and hour claims. He helps clients tackle tough issues, including:

  • Union elections and right to work

  • Severance agreements...

Brian Paul, Michael Best Law Firm, Labor and Employment Attorney

Brian brings strategic business vision to his work representing companies engaged in employment-related disputes, both in state and federal courts and before administrative agencies. The focus of Brian’s practice is to deliver positive outcomes in litigation matters, including:

  • Class action discrimination

  • Wage and hour collective actions

  • Harassment and discrimination claims

  • Wrongful termination

  • ...
Miguel Manriquez, Michael Best Friedrich, labor relations attorney, employment negotiations legal counsel, sports licensing lawyer, marketing law, digital media representation

Miguel Manriquez is an attorney in the firm’s Labor & Employment Relations Practice Group.

Labor and Employment Relations Law

Mr. Manriquez assists clients with labor relations, contract negotiations and labor and employment litigation. He has significant experience regarding unfair labor practices, labor negotiations and other labor relations matters.

Sports and Entertainment Law

Mr. Manriquez has served as legal counsel to a...