Council to widen pay law

first_imgIn one of the broadest applications of a “living-wage” ordinance in the nation, the Los Angeles City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to extend the law to hotels near Los Angeles International Airport. Hundreds of hotel workers, chanting “s , se puede” as they jammed council chambers to urge passage of the measure, cheered the 11-3 vote. While the city’s original living-wage rule applies only to firms doing business under contracts with city government, the new plan would cover about a dozen Century Boulevard hotels that the council says are beneficiaries of a city-owned asset: the airport. The approval puts Los Angeles at the heart of a heated national debate over how much power municipalities have in setting wages for private enterprise. But aides to Villaraigosa said he strongly supports a living wage and job protections for the workers near LAX and will sign the deal when it reaches his desk. Under the plan, hotel operators will be required to pay workers a minimum of $9.08 an hour with health benefits, or $10.33 an hour without the benefits. Two other measures, approved 13-1, will require the hotels to give workers their full pay, including tips collected from service charges, and protect workers from being fired. Councilwoman Janice Hahn, the driving force behind the living-wage measure, said she believes it is a matter of justice for the 3,000 or so workers at the hotels, including many with incomes below the federal poverty level and no health benefits. “Let us resolve that this City Council believes in you, that this City Council supports you,” Hahn said. “We support business. We support business improvement, but we also support the workers who make this happen.” Hahn cited studies showing that Century Corridor hotel workers are paid 20 percent less than their downtown counterparts and that corridor hotels are among the city’s busiest. But Cindy Bolton, general manager of the Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles Airport, said an independent survey found that just five of her workers earned less than the living wage. “We just don’t think government should be telling us how to operate our business,” said Bolton, calling herself surprised by how quickly council members passed the measure, proposed less than four months ago. “We don’t think they looked at all the information,” she said. Critics also said the measure was designed to promote union organizing at the hotels, which have resisted efforts in the past by the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union. The union and the county Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, have been strong supporters of the living-wage movement. Under the proposal, the living wage will not apply where labor agreements are in effect. Council members opposing the proposal – Bernard Parks, Greig Smith and Dennis Zine – said more studies should be conducted. Councilwoman Jan Perry was absent. “We are doing this based solely on hearsay and no real evidence,” Smith said. “You are asking the City Council to venture into the private sector where no city has gone before. “We have not looked at the economic impact of this. There is no economic analysis to justify this.” Zine said he was disappointed that the hotel operators and the workers’ Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy were unable to negotiate a settlement. And Parks said the City Council moved too quickly. “There is litigation in other cities where this has been tried, and I think we’re being premature in approving this,” he said. But Council President Eric Garcetti said he believes it was the proper action. “This is a way to take a full-time worker up to the federal poverty level,” he said. “In leadership, we talk a lot out here. But we also listen, and our decision is not based just on emotion. It is based on the workers and the lives they live.” Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the airport area, said he supported the proposal. “This is an opportunity to give a living wage to the people who make these hotels as great as they are,” he said. “We are not looking at big bucks here for the hotels.” But Daniel Blake, director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at California State University, Northridge, said the ordinance’s long-term effects remain to be seen. “What it does is set out to provide an above-the-going wage in an area, and that benefits the people in those jobs for a while,” Blake said. “But what it doesn’t account for is that these people might be faced with a loss of job because there will be more competition for the work. “Also, the hotel operators will look at what it is costing them to operate, and they might decide to outsource a lot of the work,” Blake said. “So instead of having a cleaning crew on staff, they will hire a janitorial service to reduce their overall costs.” Mayor urged delay Questions remain rick.orlov@dailynews.com (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’And it drew immediate threats of a challenge – in court or by a voter initiative – from hotel operators and others in the business community, concerned that the ordinance will be broadened to even more industries and areas of the city. “We have never seen anything like this – when the government tells private business how to operate,” said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is an unprecedented use of (city government’s) powers.” “My understanding, when the original living wage was approved 10 years ago, was the business community was assured that it would not apply to firms that didn’t have a direct contract with the city. Yet, look where we are today.” The measure is up next Wednesday for a final council vote, where it will need eight votes for approval. It would then go to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is expected to sign off on the plan. Villaraigosa had asked the council to delay a decision and hold more hearings to try to reach a compromise with hotel operators. He also had urged the council to apply the ordinance only to hotels on Century Boulevard. last_img

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