Long Beach began the process on Tuesday of potentially putting a measure on the March 2024 ballot that would push hotel workers’ pay as high as $30 per hour by 2028, after the City Council voted unanimously to approve a market analysis that could be presented to the body by the end of the year.
Hotel workers in Long Beach scored a victory in 2012 through Measure N, a voter-approved measure that provided inflation-adjusted wage increases and five sick days per year. Hotel workers’ minimum wage is currently $17.55 per hour, according to the city’s website.
Labor unions across the region have seen their members strike and push for increased pay in recent months, including two Downtown hotels, the Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Centric, which agreed in April to pay its non-tipped workers to between $22 and $25 per hour.
Workers, labor leaders and allies showed up to Long Beach city hall Tuesday to demand that the council push forward with a ballot measure to let the voters decide if all hospitality workers in the city would get similar increases in pay.
“Fifteen dollars an hour does not get you anywhere, and again, I’d love to stay in Long Beach,” said Gloria Hernandez, a hotel worker who said she feared losing her home because of her current pay.
Yvonne Wheeler, president of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which includes the Unite Here Local 11 union that is leading the push for hotel worker pay increases, said that in the midst of a housing crisis, many workers are one missed paycheck from being homeless and told the council that Tuesday was “an opportunity to vote on a just policy.”
“As a taxpayer in Long Beach, we’ve subsidized the Downtown area with a promise that it was an investment that would return to Long Beach residents through good jobs with benefits,” Wheeler said.
John Edmond, a public affairs advocate for the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce who told the Post last week that he was skeptical of the $30 per hour goal, said Tuesday the chamber had not taken a position on the item yet and wants to be “part of the process.”
While Tuesday’s vote authorized a market analysis to be completed before the council makes a decision to put a wage increase question on the ballot in 2024, some council members already indicated they wanted to do just that and asked for language other cities incorporated into similar ballot measures be incorporated into Long Beach’s.
“I hope that voters approve this at the ballot box,” said Councilmember Cindy Allen, one of the co-sponsors of the item.
Other council members pointed to the city’s own employees, many of whom don’t make $25 an hour. Councilmember Al Austin said he supported the market analysis but said the irony of the city’s workforce pay scale was not lost on him.
“I hope we’re as enthusiastic in raising up our own workers as we are these hospitality workers,” Austin said.
When Long Beach approves its annual municipal budget later this year, it will include a new contract with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the city’s largest employee union, which represents over 2,800 workers including librarians, refuse collectors and ambulance drivers, all classifications that are often paid less than $25 per hour.
Staff shortages have been cited by city officials in recent months for an ambulance crashing into a power pole when its driver fell asleep at the wheel as well as library closures and trash not being collected on regularly scheduled days.
In order to place a ballot measure on the March 2024 ballot, the council would have to vote by December.
If it makes the ballot, the measure would join another $25 minimum wage increase ballot measure for health care workers, which the council tried to pass as an ordinance in 2022 but was blocked by opponents who turned in enough signatures to qualify it for a referendum vote.
The council requested an economic impact report for that issue to determine how a wage increase might affect the health care network in the city and voted to approve the ordinance the same day the report was made public in August 2022.
That report concluded that up to 58 jobs would be lost in the short term, with those who kept their jobs seeing gains of between $7 million and $9.9 million in wages. However, the report anticipated that health care facilities could close locations, raise prices for patients or reduce investments in the city to pay for higher wages.
The report was limited because of the roughly 30 days the council gave its authors to complete the analysis, with several firms turning down the job because of the lack of time needed to complete a thorough report.
A market analysis for the hotel worker wage increase is expected to be discussed at a council committee hearing before being sent back to the full council.