The real City Hall boss — union leader Maria Elena Durazo — stood in support of a “living wage impact study” defined in a motion that had been dormant for five months until it suddenly was waived through two committees and brought before the full City Council on Tuesday.
She called for a comprehensive training program along with extension of the living wage ordinance citywide for the benefit of hotel workers. The living wage — adding 40 to 50 percent to employee costs and largely paid for out of tax subsidies and rebates and inflated contract costs — already is required of LAX area hotels and businesses that get city contracts or other city benefits.
Durazo’s favorite partner, AEG, Anschutz Entertainment Group — owner of Staples Center, LA Live and soon Farmers Field and the LA Convention Center — then backed her call for the “living wage impact study” to the hilt as necessary to making LA a mecca for tourism despite what the Council motion says is a shortage of 50,000 hotel rooms and the poor condition of so many existing ones.
None of this costly meddling in private business dealings, virtually requiring workers to join a union and sticking taxpayers with the bill sat well with the business community.
The hotel association denounced the “living wage impact study” and so did the Central City Association which never objected to taxpayer susbsidies before. The LA Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association joined in the chorus of criticism.
Labor, AEG and the business community got it all wrong.
Led by the ever deft Herb Wesson, one Council member after another got up and swore nothing in the motion was about the living wage. It was about building hotels, putting people to work, making LA the nation’s top tourist destination — and incidentally maybe finding hundreds of millions of dollars somewhere to subsidize salary costs
Even supposedly more conservative members like the West Valley’s Mitch Englander and Dennis Zine — the man who would be the city’s fiscal watchdog as Controller — saluted Durazo’s effort, one after another, all lined up and unanimous.
When all else fails because of the bumbling inarticulateness of Council members, they turn to the eloquent Paul Krekorian who praised how “eloquently” Durazo had spoken to the “partnership between labor and business to try and create a more vibrant tourist industry.”
It was as if the business community had not clearly and sharply criticized this effort just minutes before.
Even Krekorian, driven by ambition for higher office to kowtow to Durazo and the power structure, mumbled at times as he selectively read from the motion, leaving out all words that went to the point of why labor and business were as one in seeing this as a “living wage impact study” for the purposes of extending the artificially-inflated wages of hotel workers citywide.
Here, in bold face type, are the parts he didn’t want to mention:
In Los Angeles County, tourism is a thriving industry, having surpassed trade as the number one employer with over a half million jobs. Tourism, international trade and entertainment are expected to be the primary economic drivers leading Los Angeles out of the recession.
But the City of Los Angeles is lagging behind where it can be and where it needs to be as a
Mecca for domestic and international tourism. By national standards, a city with an economy the size of Los Angeles’s should have 50,000 more hotel rooms. Our existing hotel inventory is aging, and falling behind in energy efficiency standards. Meanwhile, hotel workers remain largely underpaid and overworked.
More should be done to provide support to the hotel industry in Los Angeles to encourage
investment in these hotels and lift their workers out of poverty. We must ensure that our hotels meet the needs of visitors and in the process create good jobs that improve our economy and benefit the residents of the City.
The City of Los Angeles, the tourism industry, and the regional economy would benefit from a program that incentivizes hotel modernization, energy efficiency, better pay for hotel workers, increased job training programs, and equal benefits.
The time is now to create a stronger, greener tourism industry that attracts high-end tourists and business travelers. A stronger tourism industry is a win-win for the city, the industry and thousands of working families in Los Angeles.
I THEREFORE MOVE that the City Administrative Officer in consultation with the Office of Finance, the Community Development Department and the Chief Legislative Analyst be directed to report with recommendations for creating economic incentives, including public benefits, to help strengthen the tourism industry in Los Angeles by investing in both workforce as well as facilities including providing existing hotels with funds to renovate their facilities, identifying sources of funds for this purpose, and mechanisms for accessing such incentives.