The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday made some small adjustments to a ballot measure it will send to voters next year that could raise wages for hotel workers to nearly $30 by 2028.

The cleaned-up language will now include cost-of-living adjustments after 2029 and lower the threshold for future changes by the council from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority.

The changes come after hotel workers and Unite Here Local 11, the union that has been pushing for wage increases for tens of thousands of hospitality workers it represents across the region, said the proposed ballot language deviated from what the council asked the city attorney’s office to prepare last month.

Similar measures the union is backing in other cities allow for cost-of-living adjustments after the initial schedule of raises ends in 2028 and allow other city’s governing bodies to raise wages with a majority vote.

Amending the language will require the council to call a special meeting in order to qualify the ballot measure for the March 5 election. The next scheduled meeting of the City Council is Nov. 14.

Council members have been debating the issue of asking voters to mandate wage increases for hotel workers for the past several months. The debate comes with the backdrop of striking union workers at the Hotel Maya. The council voted unanimously last month to draft an ordinance that would increase hotel worker pay to $23 by July 2024 with escalators that could drive up the hourly rate to $29.50 by July 2028.

While the motion to amend the language passed with a 7-1 vote on Tuesday, Councilmember Kristina Duggan, who voted against it, questioned why the council was so set on putting this onto the March ballot rather than the November ballot, something she said could potentially save the city over $1 million.

“Let’s be clear, we could save $1.3 million,” Duggan said.

Duggan also noted that the city has not conducted an analysis of how the wage increase might affect the local hotel industry and said the council was essentially asking voters to make a decision on something that the city doesn’t fully understand.

“I haven’t heard any compelling arguments as to why this can’t be pushed to November,” Duggan said.

A measure similar to what Long Beach voters will be asked to decide in March was defeated in Anaheim earlier this month with 67% of voters saying “No” to the wage increases. However, that ballot measure was decided during a special election and the increases applied to more workers and to a larger proportion of Anaheim’s general fund when compared to Long Beach.

Hotel room taxes make up about 40% of Anaheim’s general fund while in Long Beach those taxes only account for about 3% of the general fund. Hotel room taxes were projected to be negatively affected by the rising wages, according to an analysis done for Anaheim.

Long Beach did not carry out its own analysis because it couldn’t find a firm that could conduct one in the short timeline the city provided.

Unite Here Local 11 has been pushing for the measure to be placed on the ballot as it’s advocated for wage increases across the region with a series of high-profile labor demonstrations that have drawn backing from Long Beach City Council members.

“This is a historic moment and we couldn’t have felt it without the unanimous vote of this council,” said Ada Briceño, co-president of the union.

Also on Tuesday, council members rescinded a ballot question about a similar minimum wage increase for health care workers. They did so at the request of the city attorney’s office, which pointed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Senate Bill 525 earlier this year that set a statewide minimum wage for qualifying health care workers and voided any local ordinances that took effect after Sept. 6, 2023.

The issue was slated to be on the March ballot as a referendum after a group of hospitals gathered enough signatures to block the City Council’s vote in August 2022 to approve the wage increases by ordinance rather than having voters decide.

After Tuesday’s vote, the city will withdraw the ordinance the council approved to raise the wages of local health care workers and the group backing the referendum will withdraw its referendum effort and let the state law stand.

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