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The Definition of a Game-Changer: L.A.'s $15 Minimum Wage

Tuesday’s vote sets the bar for wage standards in the biggest U.S. cities.
Supporters carry signs to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles as they listen to Mayor Eric Garcetti during an announcement at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park with a coalition of business, labor, community, and faith leaders from across the city on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
Supporters carry signs to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles as they listen to Mayor Eric Garcetti during an announcement at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park with a coalition of business, labor, community, and faith leaders from across the city on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. AP Photo/Richard Vogel

What began as a victory for Los Angeles hotel employees last fall has escalated into a watershed moment for wage workers citywide. After nearly a year of emotional debate, city council members Tuesday voted to boost L.A.’s minimum hourly wage from the state-required $9 to $15. Under a plan endorsed by a panel last week, the city is expected to reach the new rate through year-by-year increases by 2020, affecting as many as 800,000 workers.

Assuming the plan passes its final set of hurdles and is approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti later this year, Los Angeles will join Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago among major U.S. cities to have recently increased the minimum wage by a significant margin. Since the beginnings of New York City’s fast-food protests in 2012, a nationwide movement has coalesced around that $15 figure, which advocates say can lift low-wage workers out of poverty and help close the country’s ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Critics, on the other hand, worry such wage increases could significantly reduce job growth.