From the hills to the beaches, one of the greatest economic drivers in Los Angeles is the tourism industry. Last year the city broke visitation records for the third consecutive year but the thriving tourism industry in L.A. is also a major source of what local community organizers call “poverty jobs.”
“The continuing, record-breaking growth and strength of tourism in Los Angeles is a shining light for our economy, creating good-paying jobs for our families, benefiting local businesses, and generating significant revenue for the city,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a press conference on January 6th celebrating the record number of visitors.
But an analysis of U.S. Census data found about 40 percent of hospitality workers in Los Angeles County live below twice the federal poverty level, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Union organizers in the city say the hotel industry’s record number of visitors is precisely why it is poised more than any other sector to be able to offer workers a living wage. The county labor organization and the hotel and restaurant workers union, Unite Here Local 11, have launched a campaign to require a $15.37 hourly wage for hotel workers in Los Angeles.
The $15 hourly wage would be specific to workers at hotels with 100 rooms or more. Hotels with workers who are unionized would be exempt from the law.
The proposal will be presented in the city council meetings in the coming weeks. Mayor Garcetti has not commented on whether he would support the bill.
The campaign to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles is part of a growing movement mostly led by unions to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.
Organizers have set their target wage at $15 an hour based on the criteria set in the Fair Labor Standards Act of a wage sufficient to support the “minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency, and general well-being.” A full-time worker with a $15 per hour wage would be paid at least $26,250 a year.
In December 2013 fast food workers in close to 100 U.S. cities walked off their jobs demanding an hourly wage increase to $15 an hour.
Last November voters in the state of Washington approved a $15 minimum wage for workers in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but opponents have challenged the outcome, demanding a recount by hand to ensure “the most accurate possible” results. The business backed political committee that opposes the proposition argues “fair compensation should be negotiated between employers and employees.”