The American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association are suing the City of Los Angeles over a recent minimum wage hike that specifically targets hotels.
The lawsuit, filed today by the two associations in federal court in Los Angeles, alleges that the Hotel Workers Act, which raises the minimum wage to $15.37 at large non-union hotels, is in conflict with federal labor law. AH&LA and AAHOA are asking the court to invalidate the ordinance and prohibit the city from interfering with labor relations, collective bargaining, and union organizing at all larger hotels within its jurisdiction.
“For over 50 years, there has been consensus that a single set of rules governing labor relations is good for the long-term best interests of management, unions, and workers,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of AH&LA, during a press conference in Los Angeles. “However, the city’s ordinance is clearly designed to put a thumb on the scale in favor of labor and disrupts the careful balance between labor and management.”
In addition to disrupting established federal labor law, Lugar said the hotel-only ordinance is discriminatory and believes it points to an ulterior motive, hidden behind the premise of higher wages. “We are prepared to work with local officials on a fair, balanced, and across-the-board increase but we cannot—and will not—stand by when recent actions by the city council single out hotels,” she said.
The ordinance includes an exemption that would give unions the ability to waive any part of the new ordinance for hotels they cover through a collective bargaining agreement. The lawsuit contends that this is in violation of the fundamental precepts of U.S. labor law and policy.
“The City of Los Angeles is being pulled into taking sides between unions and hotels,” said Chip Rogers, interim president of AAHOA. “The City Council doesn’t have the authority to rewrite federal labor law, and this ordinance effectively gives unions the ability to pick and choose when and where the provisions of this ordinance will be enforced. That’s not right.”
A recent survey of Los Angeles voters shows that 65 percent of respondents are opposed to raising the minimum wage solely for hotel workers and are more supportive of the across-the-board minimum wage increase. “We want to find common ground and common sense solutions that protect our workers, business owners, and all their livelihoods,” said Bob Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles.
The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect in July 2015 for hotels with at least 300 rooms, expanding a year later to hotels with at least 150 rooms.