A measure to increase the minimum wage for thousands of Los Angeles hotel workers tentatively approved by the city council Wednesday has drawn mixed reactions.
The controversial proposal calls for nearly 13,000 workers at the city’s larger hotels to make a minimum wage of $15.37 an hour beginning next summer.
"They make around $18,000 a year. Everyone in this chamber knows you can’t live on that in Los Angeles," Councilman Paul Koretz said ahead of the vote.
Emerito Avevedo, who just started as a bellhop at the Beverly Garland Hotel in North Hollywood, said the wage increase would go a long way to improving living conditions for workers in the city.
"Rent here in California is so high compared to other states," he said.
But while the proposal drew large crowds to council chambers this week and has been widely backed by labor groups and progressive politicians, business leaders say the nearly 50 percent increase from the current state-mandated $9 an hour is too much, too fast.
"The city called for three economic studies. All those economic studies said there would be job losses, and they did not seem to acknowledge any of those studies or any of our concerns," said James Crank, asset manager of the Beverly Garland Hotel.
Some point to the LAX area, where no new development has begun since the city enacted a higher minimum wage for the business district in 2008.
Business organizations also point to the plan’s focus on non-union hotels. Companies that already have an agreement in place with the workers union will not be affected, nor will with fewer than 150 rooms.
"So unions can go to non-union hotels and say ‘let us organize and we can start negotiations for salaries at nine dollars an hour and you won't be under the city law’," said Reuben Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. "That's what is happening here."
The council voted 12-3 in favor of the hike. It will return to the council’s agenda next week for a second vote because the first reading was not unanimous. It will need just eight votes to pass, and is expected to be sent to Mayor Eric Garcetti for final approval soon after that council meeting.
Garcetti, who is also gathering support for a city-wide increase to the minimum wage, has publicly said he will sign the proposal into law if it comes to his desk.