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L.A. Hotel Workers Move Closer to $15.37 Hourly Minimum Wage

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When asked by the Los Angeles Times to explain the movement to raise the minimum wage for the city’s hotel workers, one worker said, “At $15 [an hour], we can make it. We can live just a little bit better, not drowning all the time.”

It’s no surprise that hotel workers would be in favor of having raising their hourly minimum wage raised from $9 to $15.37, as is currently being proposed. Nor is it surprising that they’ve found support from the extensive network of liberal organizations and labor unions in the L.A. area. Less predictably, however, many members of L.A.’s business community, ranging from 750 small business owners to shopping mall developers Rick Caruso and the Westfield Group, have endorsed the proposed legislation as well.

In a letter to Councilmember Mike Bonin, Westfield co-CEO Peter Lowy indicated his organization’s support for such a measure. Lowy described Westfield’s experience with the living wage requirements currently in place at Los Angeles International Airport and said that “the continued growth and prosperity of this City is vital not only to [Westfield’s] centers, but to our employees who live and work here.” Lowy added that “business will thrive with a level playing field that requires the same rules and expectations across the board.”

In response to worries that the measure might be costly for businesses, Caruso told the L.A. Times, that “some of the costs will get absorbed by the businesses and some will get passed through to the consumer. But I think it’s good for businesses in the long run. I think businesses should be able to absorb it and not worry about it.”

Caruso’s sentiments were echoed in a Capital & Main interview with Rico Roberts, who owns a vintage clothing store. After listing an extensive number of employee benefits she provides (including paid sick leave and holidays), Roberts said, “If I can do that, then a multimillion dollar hotelier who is getting city sponsorships should be able to pull something together . . . There is a lot of value in treating one’s employees with respect.” Roberts explained that her employees stay with her for an average of five years – considered a long time for a retail store.

Not everyone is so optimistic about the effects of the proposed legislation. In a letter to the City Council’s Economic Development Committee, Hotel Association of Los Angeles Executive Director Bob Amano and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben worried that the “unintended consequences” of the wage hike could be “devastating.”

However, Next Century Associates, the company that owns the Century Plaza Hotel, wrote to Council President Herb J. Wesson in support of a living wage ordinance. Next Century Associates explained their support by stating that “raising wages will benefit employees and the ripple effects will be felt by businesses throughout the city.” The letter pointed out that “some employers— including hoteliers, airport concessionaires, and event centers— already pay these wages and operate successfully.”

The City Council will likely vote on the wage increase before the end of the year.

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