Reflecting the Concerns of the Community April 5-11, 2000 Vol. 1, Issue 42

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Council Defines Differences In Wage Measures

Carolanne Sudderth

Mirror staff writer

   At its March 28 meeting, the Santa Monica City Council attempted to clarify the differences between the Living Wage Initiative currently being promoted by a group of business people and the Living Wage Ordinance the City is currently studying. 
   Though the names are similar, the content of the two measures is very different. 
   The Council voted 6-0 to have staff study the issues in an attempt to make sure the public understands the differences. Council member Bob Holbrook left prior to the vote. 
   The Living Wage Ordinance proposed by Santa Monicans Allied for Responsible Tourism (SMART) suggests a minimum wage of $10.69 for employees of businesses located in the coastal zone with 50 or more workers. 
   The Living Wage Initiative mandates a minimum wage of $8.32 (with benefits) for employees of companies with city contracts of $25,000 or more, and prohibits the imposition of any living wage measure in the private sector. If passed, the initiative would make any such measure null and void, whether it was passed simultaneously or prior to passage of the LWI, and woud further require that any future living wage measure be approved by a vote of the people. 
   The Living Wage Initiative was submitted on March 16. After title and ballot summary are published in a local paper, the proponents have 180 days to gather signatures of 10% of the cityís 53,779, registered voters.
   Council member Mike Feinstein asked staff to look at the Initiative and report back on two areas: (1) the class of workers that would be affected by the initiative, and (2) the effects the LWI would have on legal options, "present and future." His motion emphasized the importance of getting information to the voters and letting them know which of the two options theyíre supporting when they're asked to sign a petition. 
   "Itís in the public interest for the community to have information about whatís being presented to them, to be aware of the effects of this proposed initiative before they sign anything," he said. 
   "I think that as this gets better known, it will become very clear that [the Living Wage Initiative] is not a living wage ordinance." Mayor Ken Genser said. 
   Council member Kevin McKeown called the measure a Trojan Horse. His allegations of obfuscation and deception were echoed by and amplified by Genser.
   "Itís a very restrictive law and is done in a way to pre-empt any meaningful attempt of enacting living wage legislation in this community. The council has embarked on a study," he said, "that will allow opportunity for the public to submit information and to aid in the Councilís making an intelligent decision. If people are dissatisfied, it can always be reversed through referendum.
   "What we have instead is a very small group, meeting in private, of well-funded business people--and I mean, well-funded business people-- trying to usurp this public deliberative process and put forth an ordinance under the guise of being a living wage ordinance and, I think, with the intent of spending, spending, spending with the intent to try and fool the voters into thinking they are enacting a living wage ordinance."

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