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With LA Tourism Rebounding, A Push To Raise LAX, Hotel Workers’ Minimum Wage

A small crowd of people holding white, purple and red signs reading "Tourism Workers Rising" stand on the steps of a gray building.
Tourism workers and their supporters rally outside L.A. City Hall Wednesday.
(Leslie Berestein Rojas
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Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price is pushing to raise the wages of thousands of L.A. hotel and airport workers ahead of a predicted boom in local tourism as the city prepares to host 2026 World Cup matches and the 2028 Olympics.

On Wednesday, Price said he introduced a motion for a proposed ordinance that would raise the wages of tourism workers, including privately contracted workers at LAX, to $25 an hour.

“We know how important tourism is,” Price told LAist after a news conference outside City Hall. “Hotels are filling up again, the airport is thriving, and it's just only fair that the workers in those venues are able to benefit as well.”

Who does it apply to

The proposed ordinance would reportedly apply to some 36,000 people, including privately contracted LAX security guards and janitors, airplane cabin cleaners and catering workers, passenger service workers, airline restaurant workers, airport restaurant and retail workers, and hotel workers, such as housekeepers, in hotels with over 60 rooms.

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The proposed ordinance would raise tourism workers’ wages to a minimum of $25 an hour this year, and then it would raise them $1 each year until they’re earning $30 an hour in 2028.

The city's minimum wage will increase to $16.78 an hour on July 1.

The Olympics factor

Noting that L.A. will host the 2028 Summer Olympics L.A. and will be one of several host cities for the 2026 World Cup, Price said the city “is going to be bulging from these events, people coming from all over the world.” And all those visitors will “be relying upon the hospitality of our city … reflected in those workers who are providing services, providing food, cleaning up, providing support.”

The motion cites “major infrastructure and development projects” planned ahead of these events, including LAX’ $6 billion expansion. It also points to “massive bailouts” received by the tourism industry in light of the pandemic, including $13 billion in federal Paycheck Protection Program loans to the hotel industry and billions in government support to domestic airline carriers.

At the same time, tourism workers’ wages have not kept up with inflation and the rising cost of living, leaving workers to face housing insecurity amid the city’s housing crisis, according to the proposal.

We have reached out to the Hotel Association of Los Angeles for comment on Price's motion.

Outside City Hall Wednesday morning, several dozen tourism workers and representatives from hospitality and service unions joined Price and other city leaders outside City Hall Wednesday morning. Some of the workers talked about having to take on additional gig work in addition to their full-time jobs to make ends meet.

$21 an hour after 21 years on the job

Jovan Houston said she’s worked full-time for a private security firm at LAX for six years and only earns $19.04 an hour.

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“My rent is $1,500," said Houston, who lives in the Westmont neighborhood near LAX. “So I have to do odd jobs. I'm a cosmetologist, I do side jobs, but you know, that's taking away time” she’d rather spend with her 13-year-old son as a single parent.

Plus working at LAX isn’t exactly easy, she added: “We deal with rude passengers. We deal with confrontational passengers.”

Jovan and other airport workers who endured the worst of the pandemic working at LAX said they even contracted COVID-19 while on the job.

Longtime LAX security guard Oscar Antonio said he’s faced other dangers — he said he was on the job in 2013 when a fatal shooting occurred.

“Me and my coworker, we stayed at the terminal,” Antonio said. “I helped the police to put the guy down.”

Antonio said he makes about $21 an hour after 21 years on the job.

“I mean, 21 an hour is not enough right now, you know, everything costs more expensive, food’s more expensive, so we need to increase the salary,” Antonio said.

Other proposed changes

Among other things, the proposal also seeks minimum health benefit requirements, including family coverage, and to ensure that workers receive the paid time off and sick days they are eligible for under the city’s living wage rules.

An ordinance approved last year that raised the minimum wage to $25 for thousands of health care workers at private facilities in L.A. is on hold after hospital groups carried out a successful petition campaign to place the issue on the March 2024 ballot.

A measure raising the minimum wage to $25 for health care workers, janitors and clerical employees in Long Beach is on hold after opponents gathered enough signatures to put the measure to a vote in a March 2024 special election.

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