Los Angeles County board adopts mandatory minimum wage hike

By Phoenix Tso

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The governing body of Los Angeles County on Tuesday passed a measure to raise the mandatory minimum wage incrementally to $15 an hour by 2020 in unincorporated areas that are home to about a tenth of the county's population.

The Los Angeles County government is Southern California's largest single employer, with more than 105,000 workers ranging from firefighters and sheriff's deputies to social workers.

The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to institute the minimum wage hike for private-sector workers in unincorporated Los Angeles County and 4-1 to extend the same increase to workers on the county payroll.

The new ordinance would benefit an estimated 5,400 individuals on the county's payroll, said Joel Bellman, a spokesman for Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who backed the measure.

There are about 390,000 workers employed in parts of the county falling outside the city of Los Angeles and 87 other incorporated municipalities, but Bellman said he lacked a figure for how many of them now earn less than $15 a hour.

Passage of the measure follows similar wage hikes enacted recently in Los Angeles - the nation's second-most populous city - as well as San Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere.

Supporters, including Kuehl, say the measures aim to help a growing number of low-paid workers who find themselves slipping into poverty as wages stagnate and living expenses rise.

Opponents, such as Supervisor Michael Antonovich, say such actions put an undue burden on businesses still struggling to rebound from California's economic slump and drive companies into nearby jurisdictions that have not mandated an increase.

The federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 an hour since 2009. California's statewide hourly minimum rose from $8 to $9 last July and goes to $10 with effect from Jan. 1, 2016.

L.A. County as a whole is California's most populous county, though its unincorporated areas account for less than a tenth of all county residents - just over 1 million.

The county has a population of 10.4 million, including nearly 4.1 million residents of the city of Los Angeles.

(Reporting by Phoenix Tso; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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