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Before the Long Beach City Council commissioned the Los Angeles Economic Development Council (LAEDC)’s to study the impact of a proposed increase on minimum wage in Long Beach, the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA) discussed this issue internally for months.

With the trend of adopting a higher minimum wage occurring in some communities throughout the state including the recent ordinances adopted in the County of Los Angeles and the City of Los Angeles, one could see the potential writing on the wall.

With the Long Beach City Council set to receive recommendations from the Long Beach Economic Development Commission (EDC) following the Commission’s meeting on January 6, the DLBA has long been a prominent supporter for an open, genuine and sincere discussion between all parties regarding this issue.

This dialogue began with Mayor Robert Garcia addressing the DLBA Board of Directors on August 18 and encouraging organizations and businesses to be involved.

“There was interest to address this issue months ago—but I have done my best to slow the process down,” Garcia said at the meeting. “Most importantly, I think we need to have an open and transparent process; it is just as important that we ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, to engage in this discussion. Secondly, I am trying to convince the Council that we do this our own way. Just because Los Angeles did X doesn’t mean that we have to do X. We have to do what is best for our city; we have to do it the Long Beach way.”

The DLBA joins the Mayor in supporting “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 possible minimum wage increase.

Part of that “Long Beach way,” at least for the collective business community was to take a step beyond the LAEDC study. This meant to partner with the Council of Business Associations (COBA) and the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce to gather data from business owners thru surveys and focus group meetings. Throughout these various outreach meetings and surveys, Long Beach business owners could speak frankly about the issue without the fear of retaliation. There were two essential parts to the study: one quantitative survey of 408 businesses and nonprofits and one qualitative study via seven citywide focus group meetings conducted by S. Groner Associates, Inc. (SGA).

The findings of the COBA study resulted in a meet-in-the-middle recommendation:

$12.50 per hour minimum wage (compensation includes paid benefits such as health care and paid time off including state mandated sick days, but not tipped employees) to be implemented over a five-year period.

One year delay on implementation for business with 25 or fewer employees

Two-year delay on implementation for 501(c)3 non-profits

Youth wage for 21 years old and younger would be paid at State of California minimum wage

This recommendation—supported by both the DLBA and Long Beach Chamber of Commerce—was presented to the EDC at its December meeting, prompting the Commission to host another meeting on January 6 to further analyze the possibilities.

Throughout this process, and up until the release of the COBA study late last year, DLBA and its partners upheld the idea that it is important for the business community to have its own conversation and to figure out what works or doesn’t work. This translated to a respectful discussion with opinions expressed freely. I urge you to continue in that spirit and attend the EDC meeting on January 6 at 3PM in City Hall and speak up for your view and business.

Despite the potential outcome, 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..

Allow this practice to serve as a template to engage all members of the community for discussions on all future issues – the Long Beach Way.