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Bill Rosendahl - Council District 11






Friday, December 01, 2006

A Lift for Workers is a Lift for L.A.

This morning, the Daily Breeze published an opinion piece that I co-wrote with my friend and colleague Janice Hahn. You can read it right here:

A lift for workers is a lift for L.A.
Businesses have benefitted from city reforms and should be willing to to make a difference for their employees.
By Janice Hahn and Bill Rosendahl

Los Angeles has long been a destination for those searching for a better future. But for many Angelenos that promise has vanished. The decline of good manufacturing jobs in the region has left our neighborhoods increasingly poor and segregated.

Some will say that we simply need to leave businesses alone, and that prosperity will trickle down to those in need. Others will argue that education on its own will end this crisis of poverty. But with 2.1 million people lacking health insurance and 3.9 million county residents poor enough to qualify for government assistance, it's safe to say that these ideas have failed. It's time for a new vision and a bold plan.

People become poor because they do not earn enough money. The lack of adequate income forces workers to live in overcrowded housing, juggle multiple jobs and go without basic necessities -- putting considerable strain on families and on children -- and ultimately on our city.

For 3,500 workers who work in the hotels in the Century Corridor, the Los Angeles City Council had an opportunity to help to pull them out of poverty. We voted to impose a living wage ordinance on 12 hotels near Los Angeles International Airport.

We also voted to correct a long-time injustice. The tips that show up as service charges when you order room service or hold a banquet at one of these hotels have historically not gone to the hardworking men and women who serve you. In fact, they have been going back to management. Our vote made it mandatory for the people who worked for those tips to receive them (something most customers already believed was happening).

A modest raise to the current living wage ($9.39 with health benefits, $10.64 without) -- is reasonable and fair. It will keep hardworking people out of poverty. Some of them may be able to quit an extra job; others will move out of overcrowded housing. These workers, who labor every day to welcome visitors to this great city, will now have just an inkling of what most of us take for granted every day.

Opponents claim this will spell disaster for our business climate. That is not true. Nothing is more harmful to our local economy than having an underclass of the working poor -- people with no discretionary income, no purchasing power and, therefore, no ability to contribute to the local economy.

In 1996, the city of Los Angeles passed a living wage ordinance for companies that do business with the city. At that time, the Chamber of Commerce warned that the law would cause the loss of 3,000 low-wage jobs. They were wrong. Instead, wages increased in 10,000 service jobs, and employers saw less turnover.

Los Angeles is a business-friendly city. Just this week, the city and county approved $40 million in tax incentives to bring development into downtown Los Angeles. The City Council just extended business tax reform, eliminating business taxes for new, small businesses for two years. We provide incentives, and oftentimes cash, to get businesses to move into our various redevelopment zones; and we bend over backward to make it easy for filming to stay in L.A.
But, being business-friendly does not keep us from being worker-friendly.

Without these workers, our businesses would not exist.

As author David Shipler said, "The term working poor should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works hard should be poor in America." The City Council had an opportunity to make a difference for the working poor in our city, and it was an opportunity that we could not afford to pass up.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn represents the 15th District. Councilman Bill Rosendahl represents the 11th District, which includes the Century Boulevard Corridor.


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