- Posted On January 11, 2020
“Based on a comparison of the language in the old and new ordinances, the latter was enacted in bad faith with the intent to evade the effect of the referendum petition,” Yaffe wrote in his ruling. The ruling marked a major setback for the council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who worked with the city’s powerful unions to craft the controversial living-wage ordinance. “The judge’s decision is shocking to me, and I expect the city attorney to appeal,” said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who helped push for the law. “We should stop at nothing to ensure that the hotel workers along the Century Corridor are treated with dignity and respect. These men and women are the faces of Los Angeles hospitality to visitors to our city every day.” Mayor to review The Los Angeles City Council lost its legal showdown with the business community on Friday, when a judge struck down its effort to impose a living-wage ordinance on hotels near LAX. In a strongly worded ruling, Superior Court Judge David P. Yaffe said the council violated state law and acted in bad faith when it imposed the ordinance. Yaffe said the council tried to evade the state’s referendum law by repealing an initial living-wage ordinance after hotels and business groups gathered enough signatures to put the measure to a public vote. But the council adopted virtually the same law a few weeks later, the judge said. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s office said he is considering the city’s options, and an aide to Villaraigosa said the mayor will review the decision. “The mayor believes that the workers at the Century Corridor hotels deserve a decent living wage,” said Parita Shah, spokeswoman for Villaraigosa. Los Angeles has had a living-wage requirement for more than a decade, but it had been applied only to firms doing business directly with the city. In expanding it to the hotels, the council argued that the facilities benefit from their proximity to Los Angeles International Airport and its city-funded improvements, and so they could be required to pay higher wages. The expanded living-wage law, first adopted in November, required 13 hotels along Century Boulevard to increase workers’ hourly pay to $9.39 with health insurance, or to $10.64 without health benefits. But hotels and business groups vigorously fought back, saying the city has no right to set wages for private-sector workers. They also worried that the law could set a precedent and lead to similar ordinances being expanded to other industries. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce teamed up with hotels and spent $800,000 to gather more than 103,000 signatures to put the ordinance on the May ballot with the hope that voters would overturn the law. Officials estimated that a referendum could have cost the city and business community as much as $15 million. To head off an expensive election, the City Council pledged to repeal the ordinance if the hotels agreed to a compromise that would include dropping the referendum. The council repealed the law in late January. But two weeks later it adopted a new measure that kept the living-wage requirements while promising $1 million in street improvements in the area and $50,000 to develop a marketing plan for a new Airport Hospitality Enhancement Zone. The new measure contained language designed to limit the expansion of the living-wage requirement to other business sectors. It also called for studies into a possible conference center and business-tax reductions for the area, as well as various studies on the impact of the living wage. But the new measure still frustrated business and hotel groups, who filed suit. Bait and switch In his ruling, the judge said enhancements that the council added to the measure were largely “illusory” and “vague commitments.” “These commitments are not sufficient to materially change the ordinance that the people demonstrated their hostility to by exercising their power of referendum,” Yaffe wrote. Councilmen Dennis Zine, Bernard Parks and Greig Smith had opposed the new ordinance, calling it a bait-and-switch tactic. “The judge’s ruling is exactly what we said,” Smith said Friday. “I’d be aghast if they appeal it because they’re going to lose again.” But community organizers who helped draft the living-wage law disagreed strongly with the judge’s ruling, saying they plan to keep fighting for higher pay for the nearly 3,500 hotel workers. “It’s disappointing to see the hotels continue to fight their workers,” said James Elmendorf, senior policy analyst for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. But Harvey Englander, who represents the Century Corridor hotels, said the City Council and mayor should never have moved forward with the second ordinance. “This now creates an opportunity – it’s a cooling-off period,” Englander said. “The council could bring this back in a year. We’re hoping to show the council that there is not a reason to.” [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!