LA council members want $15.37 minimum wage for hotel workers

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(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Three Los Angeles City Council members today called for raising the minimum wage to $15.37 an hour for about 11,000 hotel workers in the city.

Council members Mike Bonin, Nury Martinez and Curren Price Jr. asked for a study of the effects of increasing the hourly wage for some of the lowest paid hotel workers in the city, including housekeepers, dishwashers and bellhops.

The raise would affect employees at hotels with more than 100 rooms.

If the economic study supports the hike, an ordinance would be drafted, according to a proposal to be discussed in the City Council’s Economic Development Committee.

“We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do for people who work two and three jobs and still struggle to make ends meet,” and “because it’s the right way to grow the economy in Los Angeles,” Bonin said.

A person paid $15 an hour makes about $30,000 annually, which “doesn’t get you very far if you’re trying to exist in Los Angeles,” Bonin said at a news conference outside City Hall today.

Bonin said the city and taxpayers have invested in free public attractions such as Griffith Park and Venice Beach, as well as improvements to the transportation system that contribute to the health of the local hotel industry, which is experiencing a record 75.4 percent occupancy rate — higher than the 62 percent national average, Bonin said.

Hotels are also earning $100 in “revenue per room available,” which is a 12-year high in Los Angeles, according to the motion.

“The Los Angeles hospitality industry is thriving,” Martinez said. “We’re glad for their success, but they also need to understand they did not do it alone.”

“Now we’re asking Los Angeles hotels to pay Angelenos a living wage to benefit from the success” that all Angelenos have contributed to, she said.

“Women in particular are hurting from the low-pay wages,” with housekeepers among the lowest paid in the hotel industry, according to Martinez.

They work just as much as other employees cleaning about 15 rooms a day and  experience a 40 percent injury rate, she said.

Price, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said a wage hike will benefit the local economy, because the workers affected are more likely to spend their higher wages on small businesses in their own neighborhoods.

“The folks who are going to be earning these additional wages aren’t going to be investing them on Wall Street,” Price said. “They’re going to be getting groceries and shoes, and furniture, their tires repaired.”

The City Council in 2007 passed a “living wage ordinance” for workers at hotels near Los Angeles International Airport. Those workers are now paid a $15.37 an hour wage.

The council in 2009 also passed a wage increase ordinance for airport employees.

Los Angeles business leaders today questioned the motives behind the proposed wage increase.

“As long as this mandated wage increase would only apply to non-union hotels with union hotels exempt, this is not a true public policy debate about worker compensation, but an attempt to use government to create leverage for union organizing,” said Gary Toebben, president of the LA Area Chamber of Commerce.

“With all the discussion about improving the lives of service industry workers, why would we ever set two separate wage floors for union and non-union workers?” he said.

Bonin said today they are barred by federal law from imposing a wage hike at hotels with employees who earn union-negotiated wages.


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