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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Labor Wins, Business Loses — Again

Business blinked. There were more than enough signatures to spare more than 103,000 to put the matter to a vote. But a poll showed that most voters were in support of the “living wage” plan of our union-favoring City Council to force LAX-adjacent hotels to pay about 3,500 workers what the unions thought they should earn. And that led the L.A. Chamber and other groups to cave. So, no public vote on the issue. Instead, last Tuesday the Council voted 9-3 to ever-so-slightly amend the original proposal, and retain the living wage ordinance. The biggest change between the initial and “revised” ordinance is that the city will invest in street and signage improvements, spend $50,000 for a study (ahhh yes, another taxpayer-funded study) to attract new business to the LAX-area “hospitality zone,” and a few other goodies, all paid for by us taxpayers, of course. At least a few key Valley organizations showed up to speak out against the Council’s latest anti-business legislation: VICA, UCC, and the Mid Valley and Woodland Hills chambers. Hats off to those three Council members (two of them from our Valley) who voted last Tuesday to oppose this so-called compromise: Bernard Parks, Greig Smith, and Dennis Zine. Speaking of Zine, he pointed out to me that even the unions should be against this proposal, since it takes their ability to negotiate out of their hands, and lets the Council decide what workers should earn. Of course, as long as the Council can hand the unions a better deal than they might be able to negotiate on their own, maybe they shouldn’t mind. But the bigger issue is that the council emerges as giving itself the right to impose its will on private business when it comes to salaries and benefits. Councilwoman Janice Hahn wins this month’s Business Black Hat Award for sponsoring this legislation. She is quoted as saying, in reference to the airport-area hotels, “These workers are not being paid enough currently so the city stepped in.” Let’s hope Ms. Hahn doesn’t decide to tell us that our gardeners, housekeepers, nannies, dental hygienists and barbers aren’t being paid enough either and that the Council will determine what would be fair compensation for them. So much for a free market, capitalism and the law of supply and demand. And, to add irony to insult, the dozen hotels in question are not even in Janice Hahn’s district, they’re in Bill Rosendahl’s. So, now that the Council has determined that they know better than employers what those employers can afford to pay, here are some potential ordinances we can expect to see floating around City Hall, and wafting out of the offices of certain Council members: – Since rumor has it that 14.3 percent of the beer brewed at the Valley facility of Budweiser is consumed by city employees, that operation will have to begin paying a living wage immediately. – Since the productivity of those working near Van Nuys Airport is improved because the sounds of aircraft taking off and landing keeps employees from on-the-job naps, and since the airport is a city facility, those businesses will be subject to a fee commensurate with the improved output of their workforce. – Since many Los Angeles business owners use city parks, city sanitation services, and city streets, all businesses will be subject to a living wage for their employees. – Since many Valley workers drive city streets to jobs in the Westside or downtown, any business with Valley residents will be subject to a living wage. Of course, workers who use the 405 or 101 to get Over the Hill, will not cause their employers to be subject to this provision, as the freeways are built with state and federal funds. So what will business do now? Probably spend a few weeks bemoaning how they were had again by the unions and City Hall and wait around for the next blow against the capitalistic system. Or, it can channel its energies into electing better officeholders. In 1999, when the City Council first passed a living wage ordinance, the business community was promised that the new ordinance would apply only to businesses that chose to do business with the City. To see how well that ordinance has worked, one only has to examine the numbers of competitive bidders on rebuilding Parker Center and the Bradley Terminal one apiece! Whoever came up with the slogan “You can’t beat City Hall” should amend it to read, “You can’t trust City Hall.” “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” Charles De Gaulle Martin Cooper is Chairman of Cooper Beavers, Inc., marketing and communications. He is the Immediate Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and of the Encino Chamber of Commerce, and is Vice President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission. He can be reached at mcooper@cooperbeavers.com.

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