L.A. may hike minimum wage for hotel workers to highest in U.S.

Maria Elena Durazo, center, of the county Federation of Labor, says labor leaders hope a coming Los Angeles proposal to require large hotels to pay workers at least $15 an hour will spread to other industries.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Labor leaders hope a proposal that would dramatically raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles for workers at large hotels to roughly $15 an hour will be a step toward pay hikes for other industries.

Members of the City Council expected to propose that large hotels pay their workers $15.37 an hour -- more than double the national minimum of $7.25 an hour and push far above California’s rate of $8.

Union leaders want the increase to apply at hotels with 100 rooms or more, saying such a hike would lift housekeepers, busboys and maintenance workers out of poverty and inject much-needed cash into a languorous local economy.


It would apply to 87 hotels across the city and an estimated 10,000 employees, only some of whom are unionized. Labor leaders hope it will be just the first step toward pay hikes for many other minimum-wage workers.

“We would absolutely like to extend this to other industries,” said Maria Elena Durazo, chief of the county Federation of Labor. The organization plans to unveil billboards Tuesday, in the form of faux Los Angeles city signs that say “City Limited” and “Poverty Wage Pop. 810,864.”

Previous “living wage” ordinances in Los Angeles have focused on narrower bands of the economy. Under a 1999 city law, employees at Los Angeles International Airport get at least $15.67 an hour. And workers at 13 hotels near the airport earn a minimum of $11.97, thanks to a 2007 ordinance.

Council members were expected to bring the latest proposal forward in the coming weeks. Most declined to discuss how they would vote, though Councilman Paul Koretz called the $15 rate “reasonable in a city where costs are so high.” The political debate is expected to take months, with the precise rate and size of hotels affected subject to change as the hotel lobby attempts to resist.

Hotel owners and their representatives say a $15 minimum would trigger higher room rates and worker layoffs, as managements struggle to keep costs under control. The owners argue it’s unfair to take a piecemeal approach to pay rules — singling out a few industries or geographic areas.

But the liberal Democrats who dominate city government have a history of cooperation with organized labor, and council leaders have signaled they believe the measure has a good chance of passing. Without offering details, a spokesman said Mayor Eric Garcetti supports “building pathways to the middle class.”


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