About 300 hotel and restaurant workers rallied yesterday at the Westin Hotel at LAX in support of the Los Angeles City Council’s proposal to increase their minimum wage to $15.37 per hour.
An ordinance supported by council members Curren Price, Nury Martinez and Mike Bonin would require the city’s 87 large hotels to pay the new “living wage” that is almost double California’s present $8 per-hour minimum wage, and more than a new national minimum wage for some federal workers to $10.10 per hour proposed this month by President Barack Obama. California will increase its minimum wage to $9 per hour in July.
“In a city where the poverty rate is a staggering 19 percent,” Price said on Tuesday, “we have created this ‘barbell’ economy for the rich and poor and a disappearing middle class. Hotel workers have to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet.”
The three council members believe the city’s investment in the tourism industry—from the new Bradley Terminal at LAX, construction of the 73-story Wilshire Grand Center downtown, and public locations like Venice Beach and Griffith Park—provides the economic connection needed to increase the living wage.
The movement for more take-home pay for the primarily immigrant workers who labor at the various hotels, resorts and leisure attractions locally has been centered around LAX since 2007, where concessionaires and airport-area hotels are required to pay a living wage to their employees; right now, the living-wage law requires payments of $10.30 per hour with benefits, or $14.80 without. The measure would not apply to hotels that have labor agreements.
Business groups and hotels owners have sharply criticized the ordinance which, they claim, could slow down the economy just when it is on the upswing. Supporters don’t buy the argument.
“We’re here today because last night a woman came home after working a long day as a hotel maid, but she worried because even though she earned pay that day, she did not earn enough to fix the bald tire on her husband’s car or buy a pair of shoes for her daughter,” Bonin said this week. “When most housekeepers are women, they are the lowest paid in the industry.”
Carl Schatz, president of the Central City Association, warned of job cuts if the measure is voted through. “I have heard from one boutique hotel owner who said they are rethinking their plans,” Schatz said. “That would be a loss of 650 permanent jobs and 350 construction jobs. We think this needs to be thought out more.”