It's an uphill battle and the Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel is going it alone.

Other airport-area hotels decided after 18 months, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent and a defeat at the state's highest court to give up their challenge to Los Angeles' living wage ordinance. The law forces 12 hotels on Century Boulevard near the Los Angeles International Airport to pay higher wages. But the Hilton's owners have refused to yield, instead filing a lawsuit last week in a last-ditch bid to overturn the city's ordinance.

The lawsuit was filed June 30 in state Superior Court. However, on July 3, the city successfully petitioned to have the case moved to federal court.

Under the ordinance which went into effect July 5 but could be halted if a federal judge issues an injunction this week the 12 hotels must pay their workers the city's living wage. The wage has increased as of July 1 to $10 an hour if an employer provides health benefits, or $11.25 an hour if the employer does not.

All 12 hotels initially opposed the ordinance when it was passed in December 2006 and sought to overturn it. But during the battle that has ensued, the other hotels dropped their opposition, either agreeing to allow union organizing efforts or, more recently, agreeing to abide by the law.

One hotel owner, Peter Dumon of the Radisson Hotel, recently wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times urging all the holdout hotel owners to comply with the city ordinance.

Sources on both sides of the dispute said that after the state Supreme Court upheld the ordinance and refused to consider a challenge based on how the ordinance was enacted, most hotel owners decided it wasn't worth spending more money and effort fighting the ordinance.

But the Hilton's owners, Fortuna Enterprises LP consisting chiefly of the Hsu family led by Taiwanese businessman Henry Hsu have long held the line against unionization efforts at the hotel, dating back to the late 1990s, when Fortuna opposed and successfully warded off a Teamsters organizing effort.

The hotel has cast its latest fight as a stand against government intrusion into their business at the behest of Unite HERE Local 11, the hotel and restaurant workers union. Unite HERE was one of the sponsors of the ordinance extending the living wage to the airport area hotels; the ordinance specifically exempts hotels that agree to union contracts. Unions heavily support city council members and the mayor.


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.