Over strenuous objections from business groups, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted to hike the minimum wage for workers at large nonunion hotels to $15.37 an hour.
The 12-3 vote, which came after a couple hours of heated debate in council chambers, will raise the minimum wage hotels must pay most workers from the current $9 an hour. The increase begins in July for hotels with more than 300 rooms and extends a year later to hotels with more than 150 rooms. Hotels with collective bargaining agreements will be exempted.
The California Hotel & Lodging Association estimates that 41 hotels in the city would face the minimum wage hike.
A last-minute amendment to limit the wage hike to hotels with more than 200 rooms failed to garner enough votes to pass. But the council approved two amendments that should make it easier for developers to convert older buildings in downtown Los Angeles into hotels. The measure does allow hotels to apply for a hardship exemption.
The measure was co-authored by Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Nury Martinez and Curren Price Jr. at the urging of organized labor, which has made giving low-wage workers a "living wage” a top priority.
The ordinance comes back for a second vote next Wednesday, though it’s unlikely any votes will change. Councilmen Bernard Parks, Mitch Englander and Paul Krekorian voted against the measure on Wednesday. Mayor Eric Garcetti has already said he will sign the measure if it comes to his desk.
Garcetti has separately proposed hiking the minimum wage citywide to $13.25 an hour by 2017 and annually indexing the wage to inflation thereafter. Even if that were to pass, large nonunion hotels in the city would have to pay the higher $15.37 wage.
Local business and hotel industry groups on Tuesday warned that if the council approves the wage hike, they would likely file suit to overturn the ordinance. They said the city reneged on its promise to give adequate review to three economic studies on the impact of such a wage hike. They also contend the ordinance fails to adequately explain why the hotel industry has been singled out for a higher wage and why the hike should only apply to large hotels.
“The arbitrary wage increase is extreme and unfairly targets hotel workers,” said Pratik Patel, chair of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, after Wednesday’s vote. “Raising the price of labor will simply mean less labor is purchased. Ultimately, the very people these politicians claim to represent will be the ones without a job.”
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.