On Feb. 12th, President Obama signed an executive order on raising the the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 for federal contract workers starting in 2015, a promise he made in his State of the Union address last month. He did so in an effort to build momentum for a minimum wage hike for all Americans.
Locally, many businesses—ranging from specialty to food to books, already pay its employees more than the minimum wage—but not all.
On employee at Vermont Avenue’s Skylight Bookstore, who asked not to be named, said many of his fellow employees are financially struggling and are considering wage picketing.
“All of us would like to see that [minimum wage go up]. They start us at minimum wage—$7 or $8 an hour – and it’s not easy to live on that. . .It’s a very big issue discussed amongst staff here. Customers would be appalled if they knew,” the employee said.
In Atwater Village, at The Juice on Glendale Boulevard, owners Elizabeth Halpern and Melissa Cronkhite, already pay their workers $10 to $15, depending on the labor.
The eight-month-old business, which has 11 employees, wishes it could pay its workers more, said Halpern.
“It’s human, it’s insane,” Halpern said. “Who’s going to live on anything else? Our accountant told us we were crazy to offer more.”
At nearby Alias Books East, owner Patrick Paeper said has been paying his employees more than the minimum wage for the last 3 ½ years. His reasoning, he said, is because the cost of living is so high, especially in Los Angeles.
Atwater’s A&K Labels, which provides printing and label services, pays its three employees between $15 to $25, according to owner Arpy Simonian.
For Lilly LaBonge, owner of Sweets for the Soul, she said she’s also paid more than the minimum wage to her employees, at her bakery The bakery has been located on Glendale Boulevard for the past five years.
“I thought it was the quality of the people and there are some businesses, not necessarily in this area, where they can pay just minimum wage, but they say you’re going to get more in tips,” LaBonge said. “Those places balance it that way.”
Across the street, Proof Bakery, which has been located on Glendale Boulevard since November 2010, employs 15 full and part-time employees and they all started above the current minimum wage, according to said Karen Ma, director of operations, in an e-mail.
“Our reasoning is that we value the work our employees do,” Ma said. “It is in our best interest to keep our wages competitive to keep them with us as long as possible.”
In Echo Park, Alex Maslansky, manager of Stories Books and Café, said the book store is in support of the Obama’s hope for a nationwide potential increase.
“We start everybody higher than the minimum wage here, so we’re all for it,” he said.
Marlene Vargas, owner of the Echo Foot Lounge, agreed.
“It’s not going to affect me, that’s what I pay already,” Vargas said. “I just don’t think people can make a living off of $8 an hour. I think that the more that our people are able to make a living and support themselves, the better and stress free the community will be.”
Back in Los Feliz, Brandon Rizzuto, the manager of Vermont Avenue’s Y-Que said he was just talking about this with friends.
“It’s ridiculous. No one can afford to live on it on their own, much less raise a family. I think it should definitely go up. We pay people well over minimum wage,” he said. [Our employees] average about $12 an hour.”
Marcy Siegal, owner of Co-Op 28, also on Vermont Avenue agreed.
“I feel it’s a great idea [to raise minimum wage]. I can’t imagine how anyone lives on minimum wage, let alone $10 an hour. We pay over $10 an hour,” to our employees she said. “Even as a small business, you want to do whatever you can do. If I could pay them more, I would. But I do my best.”
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