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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Hotel Industry Head Rallies Chambers on Living Wage

The leader of a hotel industry trade group called on the Valley’s chambers of commerce to challenge the recent passage of a living wage ordinance near Los Angeles International Airport, which many fear could spread to other areas of the city. “You may have small businesses that can no longer stay in business,” said Michael Pfeifer, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, during the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley general assembly meeting Feb. 14. Pfeifer said the UCC, which represents 21 chambers and 8,000 local businesses, is well positioned to bring attention to the contentious ordinance, which was tentatively passed by the City Council after a flurry of controversy Feb 13. “Supportive business voices are needed at City Hall, in county government and all the way up to the federal level,” Pfeifer said. The measure expands a 1990s ordinance stipulating that all companies doing business with the city pay its workers the prevailing living wage, which today is $9.39 for employees with benefits or $10.64 for those without. In November, the council decided to extend that definition to include 12 hotels along Century Boulevard, which it argued benefited from city-owned LAX and were therefore city contractors. The liberal interpretation ignited furious opposition in the L.A. business community, which eventually gathered 103,000 signatures in opposition, forcing the City Council to either rescind the measure or put it on the May ballot. Instead, the council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, looking to avoid a costly election, created a new ordinance that included some concessions, such as a special LAX overlay zone to give the hotels financial incentives and an agreement to phase-in the wage hike over several months. Three opposed The City Council approved the reworked measure Feb. 13 by a 9-3 margin, with Bernard C. Parks and Valley councilmen Dennis P. Zine and Greig Smith in opposition. Pfeifer said the major concern now is that the measure has cleared the way for similar living wage ordinances to be adopted in any part of the city, even though the City Council and Villaraigosa have promised it will only apply to Century Boulevard. “But there will be another City Council and mayor,” Pfeifer said. “Could they hook it on somewhere else? It’s the City Council; they can do whatever they want.” For now, Pfeifer said his association is weighing its options about the next step, as are many other groups. “There will be probably be a lawsuit,” he said. Until then, Pfeifer said chambers have to educate members and encourage involvement with the City Council and local neighborhood councils. It’s a step UCC Executive Director Debi Schultze said she is pushing for. “We need to continue to fight this and get engaged,” she said, adding that the UCC has been vocal on the issue from the beginning.

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