Los Angeles Business Journal: Long Beach ‘Living Wage’ Backers File Signatures for November Ballot

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By Howard Fine
Friday, May 4, 2012
Los Angeles Business Journal

Backers of a proposal for a “living wage” on major hotels in Long Beach filed more than 31,000 signatures on Friday to qualify their measure for the November ballot.

The signatures were filed at the Long Beach City Clerk’s office by Unite Here Local 11, the union-allied Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and local community activists. The measure needs 22,000 valid signatures to qualify.

The proposal requires the 16 hotels in Long Beach with more than 100 rooms – including the Long Beach Hyatt Regency and the Long Beach Hilton Hotel – to pay their workers $13 an hour.

Union leaders said the initiative is necessary because hotel operators don’t pay their workers enough in wages and benefits to support their families. They were unsuccessful in previous attempts to push a living wage measure through the Long Beach City Council.

“Long Beach voters understand that when workers make a living wage, the whole community benefits,” said Sonya Clark, a Long Beach resident who gathered signatures and spoke at Friday’s press conference. “They have money left over to visit a local restaurant or take their kids to the movies, to really participate in the local economy instead of relying on social services.”

Hotel industry representatives and the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce said they will fight the measure, calling it an unwarranted intrusion into business operations. They had previously launched an unsuccessful campaign to prevent the measure from qualifying.

“This is another attempt by the unions to force businesses into collective bargaining,” said Randy Gordon, chief executive of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “Both large and small hotels alike will not be able to function without union contracts. Long Beach will be forced to charge visitors more money to stay here.

The City Clerk’s office has 30 days to certify the signatures; if the measure is certified, the City Council can either enact the measure immediately or put it on the November ballot.