Following the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles passing $15/hour minimum wage ordinances in their respective municipalities, it had been long known that this discussion was bound to move beyond talk and hit political realities in Long Beach, which was precisely why the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) felt a prudent approach to address this matter was necessary to help create a united voice for the business community.

The DLBA joined Mayor Robert Garcia in supporting what was then-referred to as “the Long Beach way”—that is, an objective, communal approach designed to be inclusive of the needs of the business community, particularly the small businesses and restaurants that will be affected by a minimum wage increase.

Traditionally, the Long Beach business community declined outright any overtures to hikes in wages, costs or taxes. However, an open and inclusive process would not only provide understanding on various perspectives but also invite the possibility of business initiatives that could be included—a benefit to the business community within an often emotionally driven topic.

After months of deliberating with the various improvement districts and business associations (including the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce), holding outreach meetings with its stakeholders, and conducting a survey that revealed support for an increase in the minimum wage, the business community, led by the Council of Business Associations (COBA), encouraged a $12.50/hour minimum wage to be implemented over a five-year period with other specificities.

This was a major paradigm shift for business, trusting the process would provide consensus and compromise leading to what it felt was a fair and just proposal.

Though both the Economic Development Commission (EDC) and Long Beach City Council, with whom COBA’s shared its 12.50/hr proposal, thanked and recognized the business community for its recommendations deemed fair and reasonable by its sponsors, the City Council ultimately decided to proceed in an anticipated direction and beyond.

Much to the disappointment of business owners across the city, the Council voted 6-2 (dissenting votes from Councilmembers Supernaw and Mungo; Councilmember Price was absent for the vote due to a family emergency) for a “pathway to $15” trajectory. While the City Council approved an increase in minimum wage to $13/hour by 2019 ($10.50/hour by January 2017; $12/hour by January 2018; $13/hour by January 2019) with a one-year exemption for small businesses with less than 25 employees and all nonprofits as proposed by the EDC, they also passed that after conducting a study in 2019 will determine if moving toward $15/hour by 2021 could be achieved. In 2023, adjustments to the minimum wage will be tied to the area’s Consumer Price Index (CPI).

While this decision may be viewed as a blow to the business community, and despite exercising an unprecedented effort to unify the voice of business regarding the most important economic development decision the City will make, the DLBA remains supportive of its stakeholders and partnerships throughout the city, and is committed to identifying options, strategies and opportunities to move an agenda for business forward.

Entrepreneurship—especially small businesses—remains, as it has been for years, the cornerstone of this community.

While ultimately the business community didn’t receive the minimum wage compromise it proposed, it also didn’t shrug its shoulders and walk away. It was able to mobilize, inspire, inform, and communicate like never before and this is why the Mayor is continuing to involve the business community in discussions as demonstrated by the invite the group received to meet with him next week to discuss the possible implementation of additional revenue options for the city.

The economic backbone of this community is committed and dedicated more than ever to continue supporting its small businesses and assuring that its unified voice is not just heard, but also accepted by our policy makers.

Kraig Kojian,
President & CEO

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