You’re Not in OC, Toto: Long Beach Biz Groups Support Minimum Wage Hike

What a difference a zip code or county line makes.

Whenever there is talk in Orange County about raises to the minimum wage, our theme parks get their mouse ears out of joint, Republican legislators spit take their pinots and the Orange County Business Council issues statements saying the problem is not low pay but a lack of affordable housing.

(To OCBC President Lucy Dunn’s credit, she has also noted that many of those opposed to government imposed wage hikes are also against affordable housing being built in their own wealthy communities. Guess they all think Mike Harrah should build low income housing skyscrapers in downtown Santa Ana, and most certainly not in his own Newport Beach ‘hood.)

Affordable housing proponents do have a point. A May 2015 study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and Irvine-based nonprofit Kennedy Commission found that Orange County is among the nation’s 10 most expensive counties for renters, with a worker needing to earn $30.92 an hour to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment.

Meanwhile, MIT’s online Living Wage Calculator shows that Orange County’s minimum wage of $9 an hour should be bumped up to $14.05 to be a living wage here. This month, the California minimum wage jumped a dollar to $10 per hour.

The lack of official support for a minimum wage hike in OC is contrasted a county over, where the Downtown Long Beach Associates Board of Directors announced Wednesday it has joined the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, the Belmont Shore Business Association, the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Area, the 4th Street Business Association, the East Anaheim Street Business Alliance and the Magnolia Industrial Group in support of the Council of Business Associations (COBA’s) proposal for a minimum wage increase in Long Beach from $9 to $12.50.

That amount is 32 cents less per hour than what the Living Wage Calculator pegs as Long Beach’s living wage. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO’s Raise the Wage Coalition wants Long Beach’s minimum wage raised to $15 an hour, just like the mayor of Los Angeles wants for his city.

However, the Long Beach business community support of raising the minimum wage at all is striking considering the polar opposite view among their colleagues in Orange County and elsewhere across the state.

The COBA recommendations do come with some caveats. The $12.50 per hour minimum wage would be implemented over a five-year period and include paid benefits such as health care and paid time off including state mandated sick days (but not tipped employees). There would be a one-year delay on implementation for business with 25 or fewer employees and a two-year delay for 501(c)3 nonprofits under COBA’s plan.

“The DLBA and its partners are proud and honored to have been a part of the effort that encouraged the business community to have a single unified voice in this pertinent issue to discuss with everyone,” says Kraig Kojian, DLBA president and CEO, in a statement. “This proposal is one that takes into account all aspects of our community while utilizing empirical data and engaging in an inclusive process that leads to what believe is a middle-of-the-road approach.”

Kojian, whose nonprofit represents tenants and property owners of the Long Beach Business Improvement District, is referring to studies that show communities become richer, not poorer, after the minimum wage is increased. 

The COBA proposal was scheduled to be formally presented to the Economic Development Commission at Long Beach City Hall Wednesday afternoon. The EDC is charged with making a formal wage recommendation to the City Council, which received a lengthy report in November citing the positives (increased consumer spending, job satisfaction, health benefits) and negatives (layoffs, decreased work hours, higher costs passed on to consumers) that accompany minimum wage increases.

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