In a victory for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)-area hotel workers seeking to improve their wages, the state Supreme Court has rejected a challenge to a Los Angeles ordinance requiring hotels near the airport to pay their service workers a “living wage.”

The court ruled Wednesday, April 9th, that it would not hear an appeal of the living wage case filed by LAX-area hotels along the Century Boulevard Corridor in February.

The Supreme Court’s decision upheld a ruling in December by the California Second District Court of Appeal, which determined that the law was sufficiently different from the repealed living wage ordinance because of new features, including that the living wage be phased in.

Airport-area hotels, which have argued that the second version of the living wage law was essentially the same as the first, then challenged the appellate court ruling. But the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeal is expected to put the ordinance into effect next month, barring further challenge from the hotels.

The ordinance will require the hotels to pay their service workers $9.71 an hour with health benefits or $10.96 an hour without benefits, as the wage is adjusted annually under the Consumer Price Index.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing 3,500 workers getting a living wage,” said Vivian Rothstein, deputy director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which has helped spearhead the living wage effort. “We’re very excited and we feel like it’s about time. This is a growing industry in Los Angeles and it needs to have standards that allow people to support their family.”

The effort to provide hotel workers with a living wage began nearly two years ago, after the ordinance was originally approved by the City Council in November 2006. The law has since faced various challenges by business groups that argued that the requirement should not be placed on companies that do not have contracts with the city.

Business groups gathered signatures to qualify a referendum on the law for the ballot. In response to the referendum, the City Council rescinded the ordinance and adopted a new law with certain requirements.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the LAX area in the 11th Council District and has backed the living wage effort, hailed the Supreme Court’s denial to hear the hotels’ appeal.

“I am very pleased with this ruling,” Rosendahl said. “Justice for these workers may have been delayed, but it will not be denied.

“The city’s ordinance is a win-win, providing fair wages for workers and significant benefits for the surrounding business community. Happy workers mean happy customers, and that means larger profits for the hotels.”

But the hotels have seen the ordinance’s effect differently and they have criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling to not hear their case.

“The decision not to review this critical case is a hindrance to the growth of the hotel industry and most importantly the creation of jobs for working families in Los Angeles,” said Ruben Gonzalez, a spokesman for the Century Corridor hotels.

The hotels have not decided whether or not to further challenge the law and are “considering next steps in dealing with the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision,” Gonzalez said.

“The Hotel Association [of Los Angeles] will continue to advocate against overreaching regulation that has negative impacts to our local economy, and support legislation that brings the community together to improve the quality of life for us all,” he said.

Rothstein said living wage supporters are hopeful that the challenges to the ordinance have ended and that the workers can soon receive improved wages.

Rosendahl said he encourages the hotels to refrain from further challenges of the law.

“It is time we all moved forward together and cooperated on a shared vision to improve Century Boulevard for everyone,” the councilman said.

The Supreme Court decision came just a day before elected officials, clergy, community leaders and hotel workers held a large rally in front of the Hilton Los Angeles Airport to call on improved working conditions in the hotel industry. The event, which occurred a week after the 40th anniversary of the Martin Luther King, Jr. assassination, was also held to address the declining number of African Americans in the hotel industry.

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