Just when I thought the granola state could not get any nuttier, here comes a city-council approved plan (to be subject to a final procedural vote and the mayor’s signature), to hike the minimum wage for employees of large hotels to $15.37 an hour. The law would apply to hotels with 300 or more rooms and then be phased in next year for hotels with 150 or more rooms. California’s current state minimum wage is $9.00 an hour.
I am particularly puzzled by this ordinance. For one thing, if it is such a great idea, why does it only apply to hotels? And large hotels at that? Are we presuming that housekeepers at small boutique hotels are less productive and less worthy? Do they not fold the sheets as neatly as those at larger hotels? Do the bellhops have less luggage to carry or fewer doors to open? Are the front desk clerks rude? Moreover, is it assumed that large hotels have tons of money to throw around at the whims of misinformed and mislead city council members and activist groups?
More to the point, is this type of measure even legal? When I read about attempts to impose mandated wages on specific industries of specific sizes (such as the attempts to mandate Walmart’s wages), I often wonder if anybody is considering that narrowly tailored laws such as these may violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Shouldn’t all industries be entitled to equal protection from whimsical “living wage” silliness?
Or if wages truly are too low, and those that fold sheets should be making $32,000 a year, then why not mandate that the wage be paid to gas station clerks, fast food workers, Walmart greeters and other entry level-type jobs?
Having worked in the hotel business for a decade during my younger years, I can speak with experience that an entry-level hotel position is not how most people want to spend their 40+ earning years. When I began my first job in the industry as a PBX operator (I am dating myself here, but some of you remember the big switchboards, right?) my starting pay was just 25 cents above the minimum wage, and certainly not enough to afford a place on my own without roomies. Did I picket and protest that I deserved a “living wage?” No, because I got paid what I was worth. I had no college education, learned the phone system in one day, and was easily replaceable. It was not until I gained more experience and moved to more challenging hotel jobs that I was paid more. Even so, there was a limit to what I could do without more formal education.
Los Angeles has a stubbornly high unemployment rate of over 8 percent. Instead of furthering their economic misery with the push for inflated and arbitrary wages on industries (which will result in fewer hours and more unemployment for lower-skilled workers), perhaps the focus should be on educating existing workers in order to boost their productivity and skill level.