Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León discusses new gains for some of the most invisible workers in town.
The theater piece Changing Lives, Changing LA – Hotel Workers Rising was created through many interviews, cut-and-paste pieces of script stuck up on a wall and moved around, lots of serendipity and much heart. It makes its debut Friday at Loyola Marymount University.
OAKLAND – The growing nationwide movement by cities and counties to raise the minimum wage is currently centered here in the Bay Area, and its success couldn’t be more urgent for workers like John Jones III.
Jones, 40, is a licensed aircraft mechanic but works as a Burger King security guard in downtown Oakland, making $10 an hour — $1 more than California’s minimum wage. His life is a series of financial challenges and daily indignities as he struggles to support his wife D’Nita, his 12-year-old son Kai and his newborn boy, Josiah.
To take a shower in his apartment, Jones has to use pliers to turn on the water because the knobs are broken. He can’t complain to his landlord because he’s behind on the rent. When his family runs out of toilet paper, Jones cuts paper towels into quarters to save a few bucks. He covers the windows in his bedroom with blankets because he can’t afford curtains.
Amid cheers from labor and community supporters, 12 of the 15 Los Angeles City Council members voted Wednesday in favor of an ordinance that will raise the minimum wage for workers in large hotels to $15.37 per hour. The measure will apply to hotels with 300 rooms or more beginning in July 2015, and expand to hotels with 150 or more rooms one year later.
Prior to the meeting an eager crowd of activists and workers, dressed in yellow “Raise LA” T-shirts, gathered in the hall outside the chamber. Raise LA is the name of the movement behind the measure. After the item was introduced, councilmembers offered their views on the living wage ordinance. Councilmember Mike Bonin opened the comments with a statement about economic justice.
“A great unfairness is that people work full time for wages that do not bring them above the poverty line,” he said.
Members of the public then addressed the council,
Thousands of low-wage workers in Los Angeles are poised to receive a substantial pay bump, depending on a critical City Council vote scheduled for Wednesday. On the table: a $15.37 hourly wage for hotel employees at some of the biggest and most lucrative non-unionized hotels in the City of Los Angeles.
In June a Los Angeles City Council committee directed city staff to draft an ordinance that would require hotels with 300-plus rooms to meet a $15.37 hourly wage benchmark by July 2015. Hotels with more than 125 rooms would have to meet the standard in 2016. The full council is expected to take up the proposal Wednesday morning after a Tuesday hearing at the Economic Development Committee.
Business interests complain that the measure would cost jobs, but proponents argue that tourism and the hotel industry are experiencing record growth and creating local jobs. A study prepared by the Economic Roundtable,