City Council Votes To Put Living Wage Measure On November Ballot
Ballot Cost Estimated At $434,000
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
June 5, 2012 – Long Beach residents will have the opportunity to vote on a measure that would require the city’s large hotels to pay what is referred to as a “living wage” to its hospitality employees.
On May 22, the Long Beach City Council voted 8-0 to place the Living Wage for Hospitality Workers measure on the November ballot. If the measure garners a majority vote of the people, large hotels (100 rooms or more) would be required to pay a minimum of $13 per hour to hotel workers, adjusted for cost of living increases, if more than 2 percent, or by a minimum of 2 percent annually. The measure also requires the hotels to pay for at least five sick days a year, accrued monthly. The provisions of the measure cannot be altered by an agreement between the hotel and individual workers; they can only be waived in a “bona fide collective bargaining agreement.”
Derrick Smith, the political director for UniteHere Local 11, publicly stated he was assigned to coordinate the effort over the past two months to get the qualified number of signatures for this to go on the ballot. There were 31,546 signatures collected for the measure, surpassing the 24,000 signatures required for the measure to qualify.
Erin Foley, a 2nd District resident and member of Occupy Long Beach, Green Long Beach! and the Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, said during public testimony at the meeting, “We citizens say this is not too much to ask, and in fact we think it is wholly appropriate for these highly profitable businesses in particular to be responsible for paying their hardworking, undercompensated workers a living wage because they are highly subsidized through tax abatements and other mechanisms provided by the city. Paying their workers a living wage will make these exchanges, these subsidies, a lot easier for the people of Long Beach to stomach because this is what will actually help our economy.”
Neither Hyatt Regency Long Beach General Manager Stephen D’Agostino nor Westin Long Beach General Manager Marc Choplick could be reached for comment at this time.
The minimum wage in California is $8 an hour, which is higher than the federal minium wage.
According to one hotel operator who didn’t wish his name used, most hotels have trimmed their staffs over the past five years and closed entire floors “in an effort to remain in business. Ever since late 2007, when the recession hit, it’s been difficult. We’ll beef up staff and open all rooms for a special event or convention, but what these union organizers don’t understand, or care to understand, is that most of us are very lean.”
According to City Clerk Larry Herrera, the estimated cost to the city for putting the measure to a citywide vote consolidated with the 2012 Presidential Election is about $434,000.
Because the petition had the qualified signatures, the city council had only two choices for action: accept the petition and implement it through ordinance; or place it on the ballot for voters to decide.
It would cost the city about $20,000 per measure, up to five measures, to add other items to the November ballot, he said. The deadline for adding measures to the ballot is August 10, however, the last council meeting prior is scheduled for August 7.
According to 1st District Councilmember Robert Garcia, a charter amendment committee meeting to address adding measures to the ballot should be scheduled.
While the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce agrees with the council’s decision to let the voters decide, according to President Randy Gordon, “It is unfortunate that there was not an option to amend or remove the measure after studying it,” he said.
“We believe this is terrible legislation and most voters just do not understand this issue and what the measure actually attempts to accomplish. . . . We believe that once people are educated [about it] they will understand exactly what the [legislation’s] flaws are,” Gordon said. “We will continue to work hard to educate the general public on this measure and will show voters how this will result in not only a loss of economic opportunity, but inevitably the loss of jobs for citizens of Long Beach.”
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