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Garcetti joins call to give $15 minimum wage to some hotel workers

Los Angeles HotelsHotel and Accommodation IndustrySocial IssuesMike BoninCurren Price

Mayor Eric Garcetti has joined the ranks of supporters of a sharp rise in the minimum wage for workers at large hotels in Los Angeles.

Several members of the City Council are preparing to release a formal proposal that large hotels pay their workers about $15.37 an hour, nearly double California’s $8 minimum wage.

“If it gets passed by the council, I would definitely sign it,” Garcetti told The Times in an interview on Thursday.

Union leaders and their council allies want the new minimum wage to apply to about 87 hotels with 100 rooms or more, saying it would lift 10,000 housekeepers, busboys and others out of poverty.

“It’s the kind of income boost that can make a difference in the lives of the citizens I represent,” said Councilman Curren Price, whose South L.A. district has the city’s highest poverty rate.

The proposal is part of a broader effort by organized labor in L.A. to increase pay for the city's lowest wage earners. "In a city with 46% poverty-wage jobs, I am very glad to have Mayor Garcetti's support for a $15 minimum wage for hotel workers," said Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Hotel owners say the wage hike could trigger higher room rates and worker layoffs. They also question the fairness of singling out an industry or geographic area for higher wage rules.

“We think that there has not been enough conversation yet about the overall impact of this proposal on the hotels,” said Gary L. Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Toebben also said he was curious whether the final proposal would exempt unionized hotels, which he suggested would make it seem that labor’s main goal was to expand union ranks.

For his part, Garcetti said the plan to raise hotel wages fits with his larger push to address income inequality in Los Angeles by reviving a summer youth jobs program, expanding vocational training and widening access to healthcare, among other things.

Higher hotel wages “would help some tremendously,” he said, but the number of people would be “very limited.”

Mike Bonin, a Westside councilman who also backs the proposal, said he was delighted Garcetti had vowed to approve it.

“It will be a significant boost to one of the most hard-hit elements of the working poor of Los Angeles,” Bonin said.

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Twitter: @finneganlatimes

michael.finnegan@latimes.com

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