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January 10, 2008
Court Upholds 'Living Wage' Ordinance

A state appeals court has upheld an ordinance in Los Angeles that required hotels near Los Angeles International Airport to pay workers a "living wage."

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Under the ordinance, hotels that have 50 or more guest rooms and are located within the Gateway to Los Angeles (Century Corridor) Property Business Improvement District (PBID) are required to pay at least $9.39 per hour to workers who receive health benefits and at least $10.64 per hour to workers who receive no health benefits. .

The ordinance was a revised version of one the city repealed earlier. Groups that opposed the ordinance collected enough signatures to force the city to either put the ordinance up for popular vote or repeal. The city decided to repeal it and write a new ordinance that included several new provisions aimed at addressing opponents concerns, such as one gave the area certain economic benefits and another that allowed a hotel to avoid the wage requirements if it showed that they were significantly burdensome or that its workers had agreed in a collective bargaining agreement to waive the requirements.

Hotels and other groups opposed the both the initial ordinance and the revised version. They were successful in asking a lower court to block the revised ordinance, arguing that the City Council evaded the referendum requirement by releasing essentially the same ordinance that it repealed. The city appealed.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles reversed the lower court's ruling, saying that the revised ordinance had enough changes to make it "essentially different" from the repealed notice. The ordinances were different in "tangible, concrete, and significant ways," the court wrote. The ruling said the lower court erred in blocking the city form publishing the revised ordinance.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa applauded the appeals court decision.

"I have always supported the alternative ordinance, which the Court upheld today, because it balances the right of workers to receive a living wage with the concerns and needs of business," he siad. "I am proud of everyone--the City Council, the City Attorney, and the labor and business interests--who worked together with my office to create this ordinance, and I look forward to its implementation."

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