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Los Angeles Hotel Workers Win Major Victory For Wages

The battle over raising the minimum wage scored a big victory last week as hotel workers in Los Angeles County secured a base rate of $15.37 an hour starting next summer. In a 12 – 3 decision, the LA City Council voted to enact the new minimum wage by July 1st 2015 for hotels with at least 300 rooms and by 2016 for hotels which have 150 to 300 rooms.

The new minimum wage, which is one of the highest in the nation, is expected to eventually affect at least 40 hotels and possibly over 13,000 workers. Hotels whose employees are unionized will be exempt from the new wage hike. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti heralded the pay raise and vowed to increase the city’s overall minimum wage from $9 to $13.25 by 2017.

Despite Congressional reluctance to raise the federal minimum wage from the current meager $7.25 an hour, almost a dozen states across the country have enacted their own increases. One of the most dramatic increases has been in Washington State where the City of Seattle will be raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next several years for all city workers. Voters in San Francisco will also be deciding whether to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour in November.

Hotel owners here in Southern California have vowed to file a lawsuit against the wage hike claiming that it unfairly singles out the hotel industry. More than 40% of hotel workers are currently earning an income that is below the federal poverty level.

GUEST: Rachel Torres, Organizer & Research Analyst for UNITE HERE Local 11