first_img“We’re not asking for anything extra. We’re looking for the basics: food on the table and a roof over your head.” The lawsuit is the latest twist in the fight about the living-wage law. The City Council approved a first ordinance in November, requiring hotels near LAX to increase workers’ pay to $9.39 an hour with health insurance, or $10.64 an hour without health benefits. Supporting council members argued the city can require the higher wages because the hotels directly benefit from their proximity to LAX and the city-sponsored airport modernization. But business groups said the city has no right to set worker wages, and they worried the law could spread to other city hotels. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce teamed up with hotels and spent $800,000 to gather more than 103,000 signatures to put the ordinance on the May ballot, with the hope that voters would overturn the law. To head off an expensive election, the City Council pledged to repeal the ordinance if the hotels agreed to a compromise that would include dropping the referendum effort. A new law was introduced in mid-February that kept the living wage requirements but also promised $1million for street improvements near the hotels and $50,000 to develop a marketing plan for a new Airport Hospitality Enhancement Zone. Despite the sweeteners, hotels and business groups denounced the new ordinance, which the City Council passed on a 10-3 vote and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed on Monday. On Tuesday, the hotels sued the city, charging that the City Council violated state law on referendums by repealing the first ordinance – which stopped the referendum – and then adopting essentially the same ordinance a few weeks later. State law says a city has to wait a year before re-introducing an ordinance that has been repealed after a successful referendum, attorney Paul Gough argued for the hotels. “The city will likely argue that it added a number of provisions that make ordinance No.2 `essentially different’ than ordinance No.1,” Gough wrote in the lawsuit. “However, even the most cursory review of those provisions review that they are mere bells and whistles added as an afterthought and in no way change the essence of the ordinance from the prior (repealed) version.” However, Deputy City Attorney Heather Davis said the second ordinance differs significantly because it adds city-funded street improvements and worker benefits. “When we enacted the new ordinance, we took into consideration the concerns of business.” Janavs seemed to lean toward the hotels’ argument on Wednesday, saying there was evidence that the two ordinances are similar. [email protected] (213) 978-0390160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The decision means the 13 hotels along the Century Boulevard corridor will not have to raise worker pay yet, and the business community – which has opposed to the ordinance – can postpone plans to gather signatures for a new referendum on the law. “The City Council gave us no choice but this action,” hotels spokesman Harvey Englander said of the lawsuit. “The hotel and business community has always been willing to sit down and work with the City Council to develop a system that would work for everybody.” Outside the courthouse, however, hotel workers and clergy criticized the hotels for challenging the law. “We’re asking hotels to honor the living wage so we can have a decent life,” said Patricia Delgado, a front desk clerk at the Westin Hotel on Century Boulevard. Hotels near Los Angeles International Airport won the first round Wednesday in their legal challenge to a “living wage” ordinance, as a judge ordered the city to delay its implementation. Judge Dzintra Janavs said she will consider the ordinance’s legality in May. Until then, she ordered the city to put the effort on hold and delay publication of the new law. “I just don’t see the urgency here of having it implemented,” Janavs said of the law. last_img

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