Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Mayoral candidates seek to clarify stances on living wage for hotel workers

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Can two candidates disagree even when they agree? Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti certainly make it seem that way. 

The latest disagreement comes over a proposal to increase wages for hotel workers in Los Angeles. Over the weekend, Wendy Greuel told KPCC and the Los Angeles Times she supports a $15 an hour wage for employees at hotels throughout the city.

The city already has a "living wage" for hotels near LAX. City leaders made the case that because those hotels benefit from the city-owned airport, they should be required to pay their workers $10.70 an hour plus health care benefits, or $11.95 an hour if no benefits are offered. The wage ordinance does not apply to hotels that have a collective bargaining agreement. 

In the past, Garcetti has supported the wage ordinance. He told reporters he supports expanding the wage ordinance to other hotels, but declined to commit to the $15 figure. 

So, where's the controversy? 

Over the weekend, labor supporters reportedly went into low-income communities and, via loudspeaker, told residents that Greuel would increase all wages — not just for hotel workers — to $15 an hour. The sentiment was mirrored in a mailer sent out by a political action committee supported by the County Federation of Labor, which has endorsed Greuel. The mailer, in English and Spanish, said Greuel would increase the minimun wage to $15 an hour.

However, L.A. does not have its own minimum wage. In fact, cities rarely institute their own minimum wage, instead abiding by state or federally-mandated laws. 

Asked about that at a debate hosted by KCAL, Greuel said, "I think we have to look at the minimum wage across the country because of the working men and women who cannot afford to live in their apartments."

"I don't know if $15 for the minimum wage is what we will see here in Los Angeles," she said. 

Greuel is backed by the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce and the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. The Chamber's vice president of public policy said this issue does not impact the group's endorsement of Greuel. 

"We oppose the creation of any wage regulation at the local level. However, these are not entirely new issues," said Ruben Gonzalez. "One of the reasons the Chamber and the business community have endorsed Wendy Greuel is, if you look at her comment in the L.A. Times, it was that, 'I'll bring the Chamber and folks to the table to discuss the idea of a minimum wage in Los Angeles.' "

"Wendy is the one we're supporting because she'll bring us all into the conversation," he said. 

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