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Los Angeles Union That Fought For $15 Minimum Wage Wants Exemption For Union Members

"We've seen every city that has passed a minimum wage include this kind of a provision."

The L.A. union that once fought for a $15 minimum wage is trying to get out from under it, reports say.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor is pushing the city to exempt union workers covered by collective bargaining from the wage law that was passed in early June, The Los Angeles Times reported.

"We've seen every [California] city that has passed a minimum wage include this kind of a provision," Rusty Hicks, a federation executive and organizer with Raise the Wage, said in May.

The measure would mean that union workers could still be paid whatever wage was stipulated through a contract, even if the city's minimum wage was higher than that, The Guardian reported.

"This provision gives the parties the option, the freedom, to negotiate that agreement. And that is a good thing," Hicks said in a May statement.

Hicks has been working to obtain the exemption since at least May, initially hoping to include it in the city law that stipulated a $15 hourly wage by 2020.

His union was criticized for the move, with an L.A. Times editorial calling it "hypocrisy at its worst."

The issue was on the backburner until this week, when city councillors were expected back from a summer break. Hicks, however, didn't offer comment to either the Times or The Guardian when they tried him.

Hicks has argued that such an exemption would help a minimum wage law "withstand legal scrutiny and delay."

He, along with others, has said that opponents of the wage law could challenge it in court by arguing it infringes on collective bargaining, and thus breaches the U.S. National Labor Relations Act.

But legal experts say otherwise. Employment lawyer Betsy Johnson told the Times that the minimum wage law simply "set[s] a higher floor for the unions to work from."

The Times also challenged Hicks' claim that every city with a minimum wage law has an exemption like the one he's pushing for.

It pointed out that San Diego's minimum wage law doesn't have one.

But that city's law is currently on hold, pending a referendum.

Los Angeles isn't the only North American jurisdiction that has committed to raising its minimum wage to $15.

More recently, Alberta lawmakers said they would raise the province's wage from $10.20 to $11.20 starting Oct. 1, making it one of Canada's highest.

However, Alberta also exempts certain workers from the wage requirement.

They include realtors, insurance salespeople and others paid by commission; movie extras; counsellors at non-profit camps; and farm workers.

"We believe minimum wage should at least allow people to meet their basic needs, Jobs Minister Lori Sigurdson said in June.

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