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, raises the minimum wage the hotels must pay their workers from the current $9 an hour.
The hike begins next 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.
Previous versions of the ordinance would have applied the wage hike to hotels with as few as 100 rooms. But a last-minute amendment to raise the threshold to hotels with more than 200 rooms failed to garner enough votes to pass.
The measure would affect at least seven Valley hotels, from the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City with 485 rooms to the Best Western Plus Carriage Inn Hotel in Sherman Oaks with 180.
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 highly unlikely any votes will change. It was only opposed by Bernard Parks, Mitch Englander and Paul Krekorian. 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 an hour 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 contend many hotels cannot afford the wage hike and that the city reneged on its promise to give adequate review to three economic studies just released early this week on the impact of the minimum wage hike. They also contend the ordinance unfairly targets only one industry and will actually reduce hotel employment.
“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 council 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.”
Among the Valley groups that lobbied hard against the measure were the Valley Industry & Commerce Association and Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The measure does allow hotels to apply for a hardship exemption. And the Council on Wednesday agreed to two amendments that will make it easier for developers to convert older downtown buildings into hotels.