Early returns showed voters favoring Measure RW, a ballot initiative that could give workers at large local hotels a pay increase, but ballots will continue to be tallied through the coming days to determine whether the increase goes into effect.

At 6 a.m. Wednesday, “Yes” had nearly 50.3% of the vote — only 235 more ballots than “No.” (See continually updated totals at lbpost.com/election.)

Measure RW would raise the minimum wage at large Long Beach hotels to nearly $30 per hour by 2028. If adopted, the first increase would go into effect in July 2024 when hotels with over 100 rooms will have to pay $23 per hour. That rate will gradually increase to $29.50 by July 2028.

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The minimum wage for hotel workers in Long Beach is currently $17.55 per hour.

“Tonight, it’s great to see Measure RW ahead,” said Mayor Rex Richardson, who supported the measure. “It reflects that this measure reflects the values of the voters and makes sure that we provide a living wage to the workers who are driving the local economy and are the backbone of much of our economic growth here in our city.” 

Unite Here Local 11 pushed for the ballot measure to be put up for a vote this year in Long Beach and other cities. The union, which represents thousands of hospitality workers across the region, said that the raises were necessary to allow hotel workers to support their families and live in the city where they work.

Opponents of the measure said that its passage could hurt the local economy and argued that the messaging around the measure was inaccurate, pointing out that Measure RW only applies to a handful of large hotels without a union contract.

Earlier this year, a judge threw out a challenge to the ballot language that sought to include an explanation of what “qualifying hotel workers” meant. However, Los Angeles County election officials’ lawyers argued that there wasn’t enough time to amend the language although the challenge was filed during the legal window to file one.

It’s unclear what effect the new wages will have on the city’s hospitality industry and local economy as a whole. When the council voted to put the issue on the March ballot, it did so without conducting an economic analysis like other cities did.

Voters in Anaheim rejected a similar wage hike after the city’s analysis found that short-term boosts to taxes generated by hotels would be followed by job losses in the industry and the potential for its convention center to become less competitive because of the higher nightly rates likely to be charged by hotels to keep up with the increased wages.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.