From Where We Are

West Hollywood is set to pay the highest minimum wage in the nation

The City of West Hollywood will soon mandate the highest minimum wage in the nation at $17.64

The City of West Hollywood will soon mandate the highest minimum wage in the nation. Six City Council members voted in favor of the resolution at a November 3 meeting to increase the minimum wage from $14 to $17.64. But how do business owners and residents feel about the increase?

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Small business owners and local residents expressed opposition and optimism at the new wage increase. This will be implemented on January 1 of 2022 for hotel workers and on July 1 for all other workers. Mayor Pro Tempore Sepi Shyne voted for the wage hike. She provides several examples of ways businesses are able to cut costs, while workers are not.

SEPI SHYNE: We are going to change their life tonight, the workers. They are not able to deduct the costs of their groceries but businesses can deduct the costs of goods that they buy. They cannot deduct the cost of their car insurance but businesses can deduct the cost as a business expense of their workers compensation, of their liquor liability insurance, of their payroll wages. These are all deductible expenses by businesses.

West Hollywood resident Danielle Wilson spoke at the virtual City Council meeting expressing her agreement with the decision. She says the conversation around minimum wage has been a long time coming.

DANIELLE WILSON: People are sick and tired of working poverty which has no place in our progressive city. The least the City Council can do is put a couple more dollars in the pockets of our city’s most vulnerable workers. Human beings can not survive on thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen dollars an hour in 2021. It’s absurd.

The Hollywood wage hike is nearly two and half times more than the federal minimum wage. However, not everyone agrees with the Council’s decision. A business owner at Carneys Restaurant in downtown Hollywood who asked not to be named says the wage increase will create a more competitive business environment and labor costs will go up.

BUSINESS OWNER: It’s very disappointing. I’m not surprised but it’s disappointing. At Crenshaw Heights and Sunset in Los Angeles and they are building a huge project there which will have mixed use -- and will have restaurants -- and they will be paying their employees $15 an hour because that will be the minimum wage for Los Angeles. So how are we going to compete against that if we have to pay our employees more money to start than they do?

According to a living wage calculator developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the living wage for a single person with no children is $19.35 per hour. Emeryville, San Francisco and Seattle have also increased their state’s minimum wage above $15 an hour this past year.