Irvine Takes Steps to Roll Back Living Wage

At a time when numerous cities are embracing minimum wage hikes, the City of Irvine is bucking the trend, with council members recently voting to repeal an eight-year-old living wage law.

The Irvine City Council voted Tuesday to repeal the 2007 ordinance requiring certain city contractors to match the lowest hourly wage paid to city employees—$10.82 an hour, or $13.34 for companies that don’t provide health coverage. Council Member Christine Shea led the effort for repeal, saying the living wage ordinance has inflated the cost of city contracts, posing a financial burden for taxpayers.

The 2007 ordinance was aimed at establishing “an hourly wage that is sufficient to live with dignity and to achieve economic self-sufficiency.” It applies to companies with city contracts valued at $100,000 or more per year and extends to all employees who conduct a majority of their work in Orange County, regardless of whether or not they are doing work for the city. That was a sticking point for Shea and other supporters of repeal who say companies end up raising prices for Irvine to cover the costs of higher rates for workers elsewhere in the county.

The vote was 4 to 1 with Council Member Beth Krom dissenting.

"I ask myself whether I'm even living in the same city that I've been living in for the last 30 years," Krom said. "We’re a city of nice people. We’re not a city of people who are looking for ways to take a pound of flesh from the people who can least afford to give it up."

A second vote is required to finalize repeal of the ordinance—the only one of its kind in Orange County.

Read more about Tuesday's vote here.