A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has blocked the City of Los Angeles from enforcing a new ordinance that would have extended the city’s ‘living wage’ to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)-area hotels.
Superior Court Judge David Yaffe said in a ruling Friday, May 4th, that the new living wage ordinance approved by the Los Angeles City Council is essentially the same as a previously approved ordinance that was rescinded by the council.
In adopting the new ordinance, the City Council acted in ‘bad faith’ by attempting to evade the effect of a referendum petition that was submitted by business groups in opposition to the ordinance, Yaffe claimed in his ruling.
Yaffe’s ruling came two months after another Superior Court judge ordered the city to delay publication of the living wage law for airport-area hotels to allow the court to consider the legality of the ordinance.
The living wage ordinance, another version of which was approved by the City Council in November, would require the hotels along the Century Boulevard Corridor to pay their service workers $9.39 per hour with health benefits or $10.64 per hour without.
Business groups in opposition said the law should not be extended to businesses that don’t have contracts with the city and they gathered more than 100,000 petition signatures to qualify a referendum on the original law for the ballot.
In response to the referendum, the City Council rescinded the ordinance and, in February, adopted a new ordinance with certain requirements, including that the living wage for workers be ‘phased’ in and an airport hospitality zone be created.
Among the requirements under the airport hospitality zone are that $1 million in street improvements for the Century Corridor be performed and that a study of the ordinance’s effects be conducted.
But according to Yaffe’s ruling, the ‘enhancements’ of the second ordinance were not sufficient to substantially change the law that referendum voters opposed.
‘The elected representatives who enacted the new ordinance tried to make it appear different from the old ordinance, but their purpose was to avoid the effect of the referendum petition, not to respect it,’ Yaffe wrote in his ruling.
Yaffe called the ordinance’s proposed enhancements ‘vague commitments.’
A spokesman for the hotels in opposition, which filed a lawsuit after the second ordinance was approved, said the hotels are pleased to see that Yaffe agreed with them that the second ordinance is essentially the same.
The judge’s ruling supports the position of the thousands of voters who signed the referendum petitions, said Harvey Englander, spokesman for the hotels.
‘The judge ruled that those were valid petitions and we’re extremely happy that’s occurred,’ Englander said.
‘We look forward to working with the city to show that there’s no reason for this law.’
But supporters of the living wage law, including City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, said they were disappointed in Yaffe’s decision.
‘The city’s ordinance was a win-win, providing fair wages for workers and significant benefits for the surrounding business community,’ said Rosendahl, who represents the LAX-area in the 11th Council District.
‘This ruling means that, once again, justice will be delayed and denied.’
James Elmendorf, senior policy analyst for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which has helped spearhead the living wage effort, alleged that Yaffe ‘made significant errors in his ruling.’
A spokesman for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said the mayor believes that the Century Corridor hotel workers deserve a living wage and he will work with the City Council to review their options.
Los Angeles city attorneys, who had argued that the second living wage ordinance was substantially different from the first, said they are considering whether or not to appeal the judge’s ruling.
‘We’re disappointed with the ruling and we’re reviewing our options at this point,’ city attorney spokesman Jonathan Diamond said.
Although enforcement of the ordinance has been blocked, supporters of the law said they are confident that the airport-area hotel workers will receive the living wage they deserve.
‘I think that there’s a clear commitment from the workers, the union and the City Council to make sure that these workers get a living wage,’ Elmendorf said.