Friday, December 08, 2006

Badass pt.3

Hotel workers are three days into a hunger strike in the Century corridor at LAX. That is pretty badass, not least because (according to my sources on the ground) they're staged directly outside the Westin LAX restaurant. So guests eating breakfast are looking right out at them, and employees from the hotel are coming out on breaks to support the strikers.

LA recently extended its 1997 minimun wage law to cover the Century corridor by the airport, an unusual and somewhat controversial legislative move. UNITE HERE Local 11 fought hard to get the law passed, and the hotel owners/operators and other business will likely mount a referendum challenge. This hunger strike emphasizes the crying need to enforce that law, and also the workers' need for a seat at the table with airport hotel employers.

I don't have much commentary here, except to call attention to the new ground broken by this minimum wage extension. There's not much legal justification for mandating wages in the private sector for a particular geographic area or industry, though it isn't (in California) specifically prohibited. There are certainly economic and moral arguments for implimenting as wide-ranging a living wage as possible, but the legal dimensions remain murky.

My favorite moment in the press coverage:

"This is discriminating against 12 hotels in a very small part of the city," says Harvey Englander, a lobby consultant to the Los Angeles Hotel Association.

Proponents claim that the ordinance is justified because the airport generates the business for these hotels. But the city's "Staples arena generates business for downtown hotels," counters Mr. Englander. "Does that mean City Council should come in and set their wages and benefits?"

He said it, not us.

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