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Los Angeles City Council votes for $15 minimum wage

Los Angeles has 700,000 people earning minimum wage and one of the highest housing costs in the nation. The vote sends the measure to the city attorney to prepare a wage ordinance. 

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Laphonza Butler, President of SEIU ULTCW, the United Long Term Care Workers’ Union, far left, joins workers demanding the Los Angeles City Council to vote to raise the minimum wage Tuesday. The city council gave initial approval Tuesday to raising minimum pay in the nation's second-largest city to $15 an hour by 2020.

Damian Dovarganes/AP

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The Los Angeles City Council gave initial approval Tuesday to raising minimum pay in the nation's second-largest city to $15 an hour by 2020, a closely watched step as Americans' wages have stagnated.

The council voted 14-1 after residents made impassioned statements for and against the plan.

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"Today, help is on the way for the one million Angelenos who live in poverty," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement, adding that "the minimum wage should not be a poverty wage in Los Angeles."

The vote sends the measure to the city attorney to prepare a wage ordinance. That ordinance will then go to a council committee and, assuming it passes, to the full council for a final vote and then to Mr. Garcetti.

The increases would begin with a wage of $10.50 in July 2016, followed by annual increases to $12, $13.25, $14.25, and then $15. Small businesses and nonprofits would be a year behind. Small businesses with 25 or fewer employees to have an additional year to reach the $15 plateau.

Council members noted that Los Angeles has 700,000 people earning minimum wage and one of the highest housing costs in the nation. California minimum wage is $9.

"The elephant in the room is the lack of affordable housing," Councilman Mitch O'Farrell said before the vote.

In April, Seattle began phasing in its new $15 minimum wage law. Most workers in Seattle saw the minimum wage increase to $11 an hour. Some small businesses got a $1 credit for employees who earn tips or get health insurance and now pay $10 an hour.

It will take until 2017 for Seattle workers at large companies and chains to earn $15 an hour. Those providing health insurance will have four years to comply. Smaller organizations will be given seven years, with the new wage including a consideration for tips and health care costs over the first five years.