Against a backdrop of hotel worker strikes and a broader push for increased pay and benefits, three Long Beach councilmembers are proposing a 2024 ballot measure that would raise wages in the hospitality industry.
The council on Tuesday night will consider whether to request a labor market study on where hospitality worker wages are headed over the next five years, and whether to ask staff to craft a measure for the March ballot that would adjust industry employees’ pay to ensure it’s “fair and competitive,” according to a report to the council.
This fall, voters in Anaheim will decide on an initiative to raise the pay of workers at hotels, stadiums and the convention center to $25 an hour, and Los Angeles has been discussing a proposal under which hotel and airport worker pay would top out at $30 an hour in 2028.
For now, Long Beach’s proposal – backed by councilmembers Cindy Allen, Suely Saro and Mary Zendejas – doesn’t give a dollar amount for the minimum wage and would likely base it on results of the market study.
None of the three councilmembers who put the issue on the agenda responded to requests for comment from the Long Beach Post.
The city’s existing rules, approved by Long Beach voters in 2012, raise hotel industry worker pay annually by either a flat 2% or based on the Consumer Price Index; the current minimum wage for those workers stands at $17.55 an hour, the council report says.
But rents have outpaced wage increases under the 2012 measure, and Long Beach hotel workers are spending on average 77% of their monthly pay to live in the city, according to the report.
The report also notes that the tourism industry got “substantial government support” to make it through the pandemic and is “now rebounding to pre-pandemic levels.”
Unite Here Local 11 Co-president Ada Briceño said her union, which represents thousands of hospitality workers around Los Angeles and Orange County, has been in discussions with Long Beach city leaders about how to help workers who are the backbone of the city’s tourism industry but can’t afford to live here.
On Monday, the union sent out a news release calling on the Long Beach City Council to pass a $25 minimum wage for hotel workers.
“People are renting couches at this point, not living rooms but couches. They’re one paycheck away from homelessness and they’re living in their cars,” she said.
With hotel business seemingly booming, Briceño said, the industry should be able to offer good pay
On Tuesday, the council will undoubtedly hear from hospitality industry representatives with concerns about the impact of a wage hike on a sector they say is still on the mend.
John Edmond, public affairs advocate for the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said many hotels “have not fully recovered” from pandemic shutdowns, and a further push to boost worker pay could spur job losses as hospitality businesses try to cut costs.
The proposal in Long Beach wasn’t a surprise, since it’s been happening across the region and in other sectors including health care and fast food, Edmond said, and he’d like to see the city do the market study as a prelude to a wider-ranging discussion.
“In my opinion, it’s a very complicated matter that deserves a much broader conversation,” Edmond said.
“We can all agree that nobody should have a full-time job and be on food stamps, but I don’t know that we can be at $30 an hour by 2028.”
The Long Beach City Council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The agenda and a link to the meeting livestream can be found here.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Unite Here Local 11.