A state appellate court has upheld a Los Angeles city ordinance that requires hotels near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to pay their service workers a “living wage.”
In its ruling Thursday, December 27th, the California Second District Court of Appeal held that the law was sufficiently different from the repealed living wage ordinance because of new features, including addressing objections expressed by the hotels and the business community, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
“This decision is a win for the workers who deserve a living wage, and for the hotels who will benefit from increased investment in the neighborhood and in worker training,” Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said.
The ordinance will require airport-area hotels along the Century Boulevard Corridor in Westchester to pay their service work- ers $9.39 per hour with health benefits or $10.64 without.
The appeals court ruling came more than seven months after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge blocked the city from enforcing the ordinance, saying that the law was essentially the same as a previously approved ordinance that was rescinded by the council.
The ordinance was originally approved by the City Council in November 2006, but business groups in opposition gathered more than 100,000 signatures to qualify a referendum on the original law for the ballot. In response to the referendum, the City Council rescinded the ordinance and adopted a new law with certain requirements, including that the living wage be phased in.
City officials in support of the new ordinance hailed the appellate court ruling, which held that the law was different from the earlier version.
“The court correctly recognizes that the challenged ordinance, which was carefully crafted to respond to the concerns of the airport hotels as well as of the broader business community, differs significantly from the original airport hotel living wage ordinance,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. “I have always supported the alternative ordinance, which the court upheld today, because it balances the right of workers to receive a living wage with the concerns and needs of business.
“I am proud of everyone — the City Council, the city attorney and the labor and business interests — who worked together with my office to create this ordinance, and I look forward to its implementation.”
But the hotels have argued that the second version of the living wage law was essentially the same as the first with a few added “bells and whistles.” A spokesman for the hotels said the appeals court decision has rendered the right of referendum null and void.
“In what we believe was a decision not supported by fact or precedent, the court gutted the ability of Californians to challenge the acts of their government through a vote of the people,” said hotel spokesman Ruben Gonzalez. “This decision, in a case regarding a mandated wage proposal by the City of Los Angeles that was successfully stopped and sent to the ballot by over 100,000 voters, will now allow local and state government to avoid a referendum election by making minor cosmetic changes to any law challenged by the voters.”
The hotels are still reviewing their options and have not decided whether to appeal the court’s ruling, Gonzalez said.
“The Century Corridor hotels, in considering our next steps, will continue our commitment to stand for the well being of our employees and the rights of the over 100,000 voters in our community who have stood with us against overreaching laws passed by the City of Los Angeles in support of special interests,” he said.
The living wage case has now been sent back to the trial court to enter a new judgment in the city’s favor.
The city may publish the living wage ordinance once the trial court complies with the appellate court’s instructions, according to the city attorney’s office.