A new mailer sent out by Los Angeles mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel’s allies to Latino voters that strongly suggests voting for her will result in an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour drew sharp criticism from her rival Monday.
In addition to the mailer, labor members supporting Greuel drove through Latino neighborhoods over the weekend broadcasting a song, “La Wendy,” with the same message.
Greuel’s opponent, Councilman Eric Garcetti, called the efforts a “cynical attempt to buy votes” and “give false hope to people who are struggling to make ends meet.” Garcetti told reporters at a news conference at his Studio City office that Greuel should disavow the message, which was included in mailers sent out by an independent group sponsored by the L.A. County Federation of Labor.
The mailer includes a photo of a woman holding a sign that says, "$15 por mi.” The mailer reads, “On May 21, our votes can raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. We are working hard to elect la Wendy our Mayor so she can raise the minimum wage.”
Officials with the labor federation did not respond to a request for comment. Greuel’s campaign declined comment on the mailer. “We cannot control what independent committees do or say — nor do we comment on their actions,” said spokeswoman Shannon Murphy.
During a debate Monday morning at KCAL-TV Channel 9, Greuel demurred when asked if she supports a $15 minimum wage. The current minimum wage is $8 an hour.
“I think we have to look at minimum wage across the country because there are men and women, working men and women who can’t afford to live in their apartments, the ability to pay for their necessities,” Greuel said in the candidates’ final face-to-face appearance before voters go to the polls May 21. “I don’t know if $15 for minimum wage is what we would see here in Los Angeles.”
Greuel has said she does support a proposal to increase the minimum hourly wage to $15 for workers at more than 80 hotels across the city. Thirteen hotels near LAX already have agreed to pay nearly $12 an hour.
Garcetti said he supports asking businesses for higher wages when they receive city assistance, but he does not back an increase of L.A.'s minimum wage to $15. “We can’t head our economy off of a cliff because suddenly we would become absolutely uncompetitive with other places,” he said.
The exchange highlights the importance of the Latino vote in the closing days of a tight race. A poll released last week by the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A. showed Garcetti and Greuel in a dead heat, but Latinos favoring Garcetti 48% to 36%.
Trimming Garcetti’s edge among Latinos is critical for Greuel, her supporters said.
“We may not be able to win the Latino vote for Wendy, but we can cut into that base that he needs,” said Leigh Shelton, spokeswoman for the Unite Here Local 11 union, which represents hotel, restaurant and other workers, shortly before a union precinct walk for Greuel on Saturday. The union, which includes more than 20,000 workers, “is going to deliver the mayor’s race for Wendy Greuel,” she predicted.
But at least a few voters were turned off by the mailer. Curtis Sanchez, an accountant who lives in the San Fernando Valley, called it “misleading.” Sanchez, who is Mexican American, said he received the bilingual mailer but his partner, City Hall lobbyist Steve Afriat, who is white, did not.
Sanchez, who said he is undecided in the mayor’s race, said many Spanish-speaking voters may wrongly conclude from the mailer that their own hourly wage will go up under a Greuel administration. City budget analysts are looking at ways of boosting the pay of hotel workers.
“It would be just so disappointing to someone who works at a McDonald’s,” he said. “They may truly think that their minimum wage will go to $15 should Wendy get elected.”
During Monday’s debate, Greuel returned repeatedly to an email exchange between Garcetti and a union campaign consultant about an audit critical of a solar installation ballot proposal that was backed by the city utility workers’ union. The consultant asked for help delaying a committee hearing on the audit until after the 2009 election. Garcetti replied, “Lemme see what I can do.” The hearing was postponed, but Garcetti says he never requested a delay. The committee chair, who has endorsed Garcetti, said he wasn’t involved in the postponement. A Greuel backer, former Controller Rick Tuttle, on Monday called on the city ethics commission to investigate.
Times staff writer James Rainey contributed to this report.