The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance last month that protects hotel workers and raises the minimum wage at more hotels in the city. Los Angeles joins neighboring cities West Hollywood and Santa Monica in passing an ordinance to protect hotel workers.
In a 10-2 vote, the council passed the job security, workload, wages and retention measures for hotel workers on June 28. Council members Paul Krekorian and John Lee voted against the measure.
Brought before the council thanks to 100,000 signatures on a petition, the ordinance, which still needs to be signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to become law, requires hotels to equip their workers with personal safety “panic button” devices and hotels with 60 rooms or more will be required to hire full-time security guards.
The ordinance also limits the total square footage an employee can clean each day.
Pete Hillen, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Hospitality Association, said hotel workers will see reduced hours because of mandates on the amount of square footage an employee can clean each day.
“Crude and unscientific square footage work rules limit our employees who often rely on extra hours for extra income,” he said.
The trade organization centered on hoteliers and their service and supplier partners advocated putting the measure before voters as a ballot proposal, which the council had an opportunity to take.
No economic analysis has been done on how the changes would affect the city’s transitional occupancy tax, Hillen said.
In addition to the new safety protocols, hotels with more than 45 rooms will have to pay bonuses if workers work overtime. Hotel operators will also have to obtain the written consent of an employee for more than 10 hours per day. Exceptions will be granted to hotels demonstrating economic difficulties.
The ordinance also expands the current minimum wage for hotels with 60 rooms and more from hotels with 150 rooms and more. The minimum wage rose to $16.04 from $15 in Los Angeles on July 1.
Alan Ray, president of Atlas Hospitality, a Newport Beach-based brokerage firm specializing in hotel sales, called the ordinance a good idea and added that he didn’t think any hotel owner or operator would oppose it.
“Anything you can do to protect your workers is definitely a very good thing,” Ray said.
Heelan said the hotel association’s membership is all about the safety aspects of the ordinance and that most of its members already have panic buttons for housekeeping staff.
“Most of the safety standards we either meet or are on track to meet,” Hillen said.
The issue, however, will come down to price, Ray said.
Hotels are just coming out of the recession following the Covid-19 pandemic and are finding it difficult to replace staff. Inflation is also a problem for operators who want to protect their profits.
One of the ordinance’s requirements is that any hotel with 60 rooms or more must hire a full-time security guard, “which is generally not a bad idea,” Ray said.
“In terms of additional costs on the hotel side, that’s if they can pass those costs on in terms of hotel room rates,” he added, saying hotels would want to pass the cost on to travelers rather than absorb it burden alone.
If the hotel has fewer than 60 rooms, the city will allow a supervisor or manager to act as a security guard.
“But obviously they’re going to have to go through training and everything,” Ray said.
Sarah Wiltfong, director of advocacy and policy for the Business Federation of Los Angeles County, or BizFed, said the group was disappointed by the council’s “short-sighted” outcome.
“This ordinance does little to protect hotel workers and instead will limit their ability to receive overtime pay, hinder hotel environmental programs when LA City is pushing for more sustainability, and significantly increase hotel costs, discouraging tourism and will reduce the city’s tax revenue as we have seen in other jurisdictions,” Wiltfong wrote in an email.
BizFed always encourages elected officials to conduct an economic assessment before imposing sweeping measures, especially in an industry still struggling with the pandemic, Wiltfong added.
“It’s a shame they didn’t in this case,” Wiltfong wrote.
The action of the municipal council is not new for the cities in the region. Long Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Glendale have passed similar laws.
Santa Monica was the first to pass its ordinance, called the Housewife’s Bill of Rights, in August 2019.
Like the Los Angeles ordinance, Santa Monica’s law requires panic buttons for housekeeping staff and a square footage-based limit on how much space an individual worker can clean each day.
“If a room attendant is assigned work in excess of the square footage limit during his workday, the employer must compensate him at twice his regular rate of pay for all hours worked—not just those hours worked in a space outside the square footage limit cadres,” according to the ordinance.
The West Hollywood ordinance passed last August on a 4-1 vote. It also requires panic buttons for cleaning staff and a square footage-based limit on the amount of space a worker can clean each day.
But Los Angeles’ ordinance goes further than other cities by requiring mandatory daily cleaning of rooms and bedding.
The mandate to clean rooms every day comes at a time when city residents are being asked to cut water consumption by up to 35 percent, the hotel association’s Hillen said.
“Since towels and sheets are cleaned every day, there is an increase in water consumption,” he said.
While a guest can opt out of having their room cleaned every day, it’s a difficult task and not as simple as it used to be since hotels can no longer offer it, Hillen added.
“We have to be careful who is having that conversation,” he said. “Before the ordinance, we were allowed to simply ask, ‘Hey, in the interest of the environment, if you’re going to stay (more than one night), let us know if you’d rather not have your towels and sheets cleaned.’
Still, Atlas Hospitality’s Ray wasn’t surprised the council passed the law.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to have protections like this, but again, anything you can do to increase the security of your employees is always (of interest),” Ray said.