The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday tentatively approved a $15.37-per-hour minimum wage for workers at large hotels in Los Angeles.
The council voted 12-3 to approve the minimum wage, with council members Bernard Parks, Mitchell Englander and Paul Krekorian dissenting. Because the decision was not unanimous, the issue will come back for a final vote Oct. 1.
If approved, hotels with 300 or more rooms would need to start paying the $15.37 minimum wage by July 1 and those with at least 150 rooms would have to comply by July 1, 2016.
Unionized hotels in many cases would be exempt from the wage hike, due to workers already agreeing to a bargained contract. Hotels facing a financial hardship would be able to apply for a waiver from paying the $15.37 wage.
The wage hike would affect an estimated 13,000 hotel workers, according to one economist hired by the city, although that figure assumed the ordinance would affect hotels with 125 or more rooms. City officials estimate 40 non-union hotels in the city have 150 or more rooms and would need to adopt the $15.37 minimum wage.
The council also approved an amendment offered earlier by Councilman Jose Huizar, instructing city officials to study possibly exempting older, sometimes historic, buildings that are developed into hotels. The Ace and The Standard hotels in downtown Los Angeles are examples of hotels that were opened within such buildings, according to the councilman.
The tentative decision to raise the hotel wage was greeted by thunderous applause from a room of supporters, many of them members of local labor groups who contend the wage hike would improve the quality of life for low- paid hotel workers struggling to make ends meet.
Opponents of the higher hotel wage warned that it would lead to job losses or hotels cutting back on services, while also discouraging much needed new hotel development in the city.
Opponents of the hotel wage, including the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association of Los Angeles, also complained the issue was rushed to a vote just one day after economics studies were released.
Economic studies commissioned by the city found that some job loss could occur, but also concluded individual workers’ pay would go up and result in a better quality of life.
Council members who support the ordinance said despite the less-than-ideal economic impacts found in the studies, it was still better to improve the low pay of some of the industry’s workers.
“Yes, we might see some job growth slow or impacted, but the lives of thousands of workers will be improved,” said Councilman Curren Price, who introduced the original motion to increase the hotel wage. “They’ll be making a living wage that will permit them to provide for their families.”
He added the focus should be on “creating a living wage (so) that an individual only needs to work one job to provide for his or her family.”
Price disputed the hotel industry’s claim that it has been singled out by the ordinance, saying hotels have also been “targeted” with “financial assistance in the form of tax breaks.”
The city has been “actively creating incentives to single out the hotel industry, in a good way,” he said.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who co-authored the motion with Price, said the “positives far outweigh the negatives,” and she countered assertions that it would drive away developers who had been looking to build hotels in Los Angeles.
She said hotels are still opening and “will be built to meet the demand of tourism.”
Martinez noted “the majority of workers in this industry are women,” and argued that it would benefit the families of the industry’s lowest paid employees.
“It is not OK for anyone working in this industry to clock out at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and rush to a second job,” she said. “It is not OK for families to have to be able raise a family working for this thriving industry, to not see their children before they go to bed. It is unacceptable.”
Parks, who voted against the wage increase, said he preferred a citywide or regional approach to increasing the wage, saying Los Angeles hotels would be competing with nearby businesses that do not have to raise their employees’ pay.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he would support the increased hotel wage if it is approved by the City Council. The hike is higher than his own proposed $13.25 minimum wage for all businesses in the city.