Vice President Joseph Biden’s swing through Los Angeles on Wednesday included a stop at a North Hollywood factory, where he pushed for a federal increase in the minimum wage.
The proposal has particular resonance in Los Angeles city and county, which have each passed measures to raise the wage to $15 per hour by 2020. That has generated concern that employers will shed jobs or raise prices, in workplaces like restaurants, but also in sectors of entertainment like theme parks and below-the-line support businesses like nurseries and prop houses.
But Biden cited record income inequality, and studies that have shown that a boost in the wage translates into improved workplace stability and a boost to the economy from increased spending. He also said that it was “as much about dignity as it is the ability to be paid fairly.”
“It is really hard to have a sense of your own dignity when you are working 40 hours a week and you’re living in poverty,” Biden told the crowd on a factory floor at Bobrick Washroom Equipment.
Biden was joined by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
Garcetti was a champion of the city’s recent move to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020, and Kuehl spearheaded a similar measure adopted by the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The Obama administration supports a more modest increase to the federal minimum wage, to $12 per hour, from the current $7.25.
Biden cited a statistics that the lowest wage earners are making 10% less in purchasing power than they did in 1973, yet have shown a 74% increase in productivity.
“That’s never happened before in America, where productivity went up and renumeration went down,” Biden said to the employees gathered at Bobrick.
Management of the company supports the L.A. wage increase, and one of its employees, Rigo Hernandez, who has been with the company for 29 years, introduced Biden. Hernandez said his son is getting his master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, and is interning this summer at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Biden said that it was an “old saw” that a minimum wage increase would cost workers. “It’s not going to happen,” he said.
He also suggested that the administration would propose new rules to try to deal with the classification of independent contractors when the workers really function like employees. That could have implications for the entertainment industry, given the heavy concentration of independent contractors working in production.