The battle over boosting the minimum wage in Los Angeles has turned to the dollar bills tucked under an empty coffee cup, the spare change dropped into tip jars and the hasty calculations jotted down on meal tabs.
As LA leaders weigh raising wages for businesses across the city, scores of local restaurateurs argue that the city should count tips toward the added amount they would have to pay workers to reach the proposed $13.25 or $15.25 minimum wage.
Doing so, they say, would ensure the wage increase helps those who need it most and reduce the financial burden on businesses.
"There is just no room for us to be able to afford this increase and stay in business," said Caroline Styne, who owns several restaurants and cafes around Los Angeles. "None of us is refuting the fact that people making $9 an hour cannot get by on that. I'm talking about people that are already making well over that."