Downtown Los Angeles
David Liu—Getty Images
By Claire Zillman
September 26, 2014

L.A. hotel workers close in on $15.37 an hour

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved by a 12-3 vote an ordinance to increase the minimum wage for workers at some hotels to $15.37 per hour. Only final approval from the council and the mayor, which is expected, stands between L.A.’s housekeepers and bellhops and the nation’s second highest minimum wage.

The $15.37 rate is one penny below the nation’s highest overall minimum wage that belongs to workers at San Jose International Airport. Workers there earn $15.38 if they don’t receive minimum benefits. When benefits and government contracting status are factored out of the equation, L.A.’s $15.37 rate will be the nation’s highest, according to Paul Sonn of the National Employment Law Project. It beats out even the top city wage—Seattle’s $15 per hour that passed in June and will go into effect over the next seven years.

The L.A. hike will only be implemented at hotels with at least 125 guest rooms. Hotels with at least that many rooms, but fewer than 300 will have until July 2016 to adhere to the increase. Large hotels with more than 300 rooms must adopt to the new rate by July 2015.

The ordinance’s main argument for a higher wage is that while city hotels have seen three straight years of growth and report a 75% occupancy rate—above the 62% nationwide rate—43% of Los Angeles hotel workers fall below the federal poverty line.

The hotel industry, meanwhile, has criticized the measure as discriminatory since it only targets hotels.

City leaders are also set to consider another, more sweeping minimum wage proposal from Mayor Eric Garcetti, who wants to enact a citywide minimum wage of $13.25, an increase from the current $9 rate.

Arkansas minimum ballot initiative under fire

The initiative to raise Arkansas’s minimum wage from $6.25—the third lowest in the nation—to $8.50 by 2017 is the target of a lawsuit aiming to keep it off of November’s ballot. The lawsuit was filed before the Arkansas Supreme Court by businessman Jackson Thomas Stephens Jr., son of finance giant Jackson Thomas Stephens.

The minimum wage measure earned a place on the ballot earlier this month after supporters turned in more than the required 62,507 signatures on July 7. The lawsuit claims that the deadline for the signature submission should have three days earlier on July 4, exactly four months before the November election. The lawsuit also challenges the validity of the signatures.

The Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin asked the court on Thursday to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it’s too late to remove the proposal from the ballot.

Labor Department spends $500K to study worker medical leave

The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid leave time to new mothers. This week the Department of Labor put $500,000 towards potentially fixing that problem. It issued $500,000 worth of grants to the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Montana to develop or implement paid family and medical leave programs. Rhode Island will receive a chunk of the money to evaluate the program that went into effect at the beginning of this year.

Rhode Island’s law provides workers with four weeks of paid caregiver leave to employees who need to care for a sick family member or a newborn, newly adopted, or fostered child. The state, along with California and New Jersey, are the only ones that have passed paid family and medical leave legislation.

In announcing the grants, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said that the money will “further our understanding of this issue. Because paid leave isn’t just the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense.”

 

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