Hundreds of workers rallied outside the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, demanding an increase to the “living wage” that county contractors are required to pay employees.
“We should not forget one of the goals of the civil rights movement was the end of poverty,” said Michael Green, a regional director of SEIU 721, which represents 55,000 county workers.
The living wage ordinance was enacted by the Supervisors in 1999 as a response to private firms that the county contracted with paying workers low wages that left them reliant on county-funded healthcare and social services. The living wage was increased in 2006 and currently stands at $9.64 per hour if the employer is providing health benefits and $11.84 per hour if the employer is not providing health benefits.
Labor leaders have argued that the wage has failed to keep pace with inflation, and Green noted that poverty in the area has increased 17% in the last five years.
“The Board of Supervisors needs to set an example,” he said. “Our message is simple -- it is time to take another look at Los Angeles County’s living wage.”
Noise from the rally could be heard inside the board’s chambers, where members were holding their weekly meeting. The protestors never entered the chamber and ended their hourlong rally at 1 p.m.
Forty minutes later, board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who benefited from millions of dollars in labor spending on his bid to be elected to the board in 2008, directed county staff to provide an update on the living wage ordinance and cost-of-living increases.
“It seems to me that we wish to be current in terms of what the living wage is for the workforce in the County of Los Angeles,” he said.