After finding wages and benefits for hotel workers around Los Angeles International Airport below industry standards, a new report released Tuesday from a union and community activist-sponsored commission recommends the city extend its living wage and worker retention ordinances to airport area hotels.


The commission, chaired by former L.A. City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, was created last month by the Coalition for a New Century an alliance of local unions, clergy, community-based groups and residents. The coalition is trying to boost wages and benefits for workers at 13 airport-area hotels through a unionization campaign and a simultaneous effort to bring city pressure on the hotels.


After hearing testimony from hotel workers and local activists, the commission concluded that average wages for hotel workers around LAX are 20 percent to 30 percent lower than hotel workers in Downtown L.A. or on the Westside. The commission also found most hotel workers lacked affordable health insurance and heard testimony that hotels often keep guest tips meant for hotel workers.


"These findings indicate that the Century Corridor, its hospitality industry and the built environment, isn't working for anyone. The low pay and lack of health insurance at the hotels helps to perpetuate poverty in the surrounding communities," the report stated.


Hotel owners did not participate in the hearing and did not have input into the commission report. In the past, hotel owners have said the aim of the Century Corridor alliance is solely to increase the ranks of union members.


In making its recommendation to extend the city's living wage ordinance to area hotels, the commission concluded that the hotels directly benefit from passenger traffic at LAX, which is administered by the city. That reasoning goes well beyond the traditional legal justification for living wage ordinances that private sector businesses must receive funds directly from the city, primarily through contracts.


The commission also recommended the city extend its recently enacted worker retention ordinance to airport area hotels. That ordinance, passed last year, currently only applies to supermarkets and is facing a possible legal challenge from grocery store owners. The commission reasoned that extending the ordinance would prevent layoffs when hotels change owners. Several airport area hotels are now on the market and could soon have new owners.


The Galanter-led commission also recommended against construction of a mini-convention and conference center near the airport, something long sought by area hotels. "Commission members are intrigued by the idea as a way to bring in more visitors but believe that any investment in such a facility should be predicated on improved conditions for hotel workers," the report said.


The L.A. City Council's commerce and tourism committee is scheduled to take up the issue of improving the working conditions at airport area hotels at its meeting on Wednesday morning.

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