By Marcos Banuelos
The tourism industry in Los Angeles has always been a significant contributor to the city's economy. However, while the industry is rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, workers in hotels and at LAX are struggling to make ends meet.
During the pandemic, the tourism industry benefited from massive bailouts, including $13 billion in PPP loans to the hotel industry and over $45 billion in total government support to the top five domestic airline carriers through the CARES Act's Payroll Support Program (PSP). Contractors and subcontractors received an additional $5 billion.
Now, as the industry prepares to host the 2026 World Cup and the 2028 Olympics, the City is investing in its future growth. Los Angeles is leading the nation in new hotel rooms, and LAX is investing $6 billion in an expansion.
Unfortunately, the workers who keep the tourism industry functioning, safe, and profitable, including hotel housekeepers, LAX janitors and security guards, airplane cabin cleaners, airline catering workers, airline passenger service workers, LAX restaurant and retail workers, and others, are facing housing insecurity. Los Angeles is grappling with an unprecedented housing and homelessness crisis, and these workers are at risk of losing their homes.
While these workers benefit from the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance (LWO) and the Los Angeles Hotel Worker Minimum Wage Ordinance (LA HWMO), the wage rates have not kept up with the rising cost of living in Los Angeles. As a result, over 36,000 people in Los Angeles and their families are struggling to make ends meet.
Moreover, workers under the LWO have not seen their healthcare benefits keep up with rising healthcare costs. Many tourism workers and their families lack quality, affordable health insurance.
Additionally, workers in the tourism industry are uniquely positioned to identify or respond to emergencies or threats. However, a lack of appropriate training can place both workers and the public at risk. A trained housekeeping workforce is needed to protect the health and safety of both workers and the public from crimes such as human trafficking, domestic, and sexual violence.
Therefore, the City Council should instruct the Chief Legislative Analyst to report with an analysis, including the economic impacts, of amending the LWO and LA HWMO to raise the hourly wage to $25 in 2023, and by $1 every year thereafter, to reach $30 an hour by 2028. The Council should also adjust the healthcare credit to meet the average cost of healthcare coverage, add minimum health benefit requirements, including family coverage, and require transparency around healthcare payments.
The Council should ensure that workers receive all eligible paid time off and sick days under the LWO, LA HWMO, and the Citywide Minimum Wage. Moreover, the Council should add a Public Housekeeping Training requirement to the LA HWMO, similar to the ordinances in Santa Monica and West Hollywood.
Finally, the Council should clarify that enforcement of the LWO and LA HWMO ordinances shall be conducted by the City's Office of Wage Standards. In conclusion, the tourism industry is rebounding in Los Angeles, but workers are still struggling to make ends meet. The City Council must take action to ensure that these workers receive fair wages, healthcare benefits, and adequate training to protect themselves and the public.