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Job killers

L.A.'s City Council has no business micromanaging parts of the private economy based on labor demands.

October 30, 2006

ON THE HEELS of last year's measure to chase large grocery stores outside the city limits of Los Angeles, the City Council is now looking to pick on the hotel industry. The ultimate losers will be the very low-wage workers the city is looking to protect, as employers flee for less intrusive climes.

Los Angeles is among the least business-friendly cities in the county, which is one reason its job base is steadily shrinking even as its population rises. High business taxes get some of the blame, but what tends to attract the most ire from business leaders are the continual experiments in social engineering by a council in thrall to labor interests.

In December, the council passed a legally dubious ordinance targeting grocery stores bigger than 15,000 square feet, ordering them to keep existing employees for at least 90 days after a change in ownership. What exactly did this accomplish? Mainly, it discouraged big grocery stores from opening in L.A. -- at least those that weren't already discouraged by an earlier city ordinance forcing big-box retailers to endure an extra level of scrutiny in the permitting process.

The grocery-store ordinance is now tied up in a lawsuit that argues it violates state and federal laws and unfairly discriminates against one class of businesses while not targeting its competitors.

Now the council is moving on to another union-decreed villain du jour. A proposal would extend the city's living-wage ordinance -- which was intended to apply only to businesses that contract with the city -- to roughly a dozen unlucky LAX-adjacent hotels.

The justification (or what passes for one) is that these hotels have higher average occupancy rates than hotels citywide, yet they pay their workers less. Not that it's any of the council's business, but the key reason for these hotels' high occupancy is that they often house airline workers such as pilots and flight crews, who pay discounted rates.

If they are forced to raise wages far in excess of the state minimum wage, some of these hotels may also raise rates, trim their workforce or move to locations beyond the grasp of the City Council -- someplace where federal and state wage laws prevail.

That so few members of the council abide by basic principles of economics is a disturbing indicator of the degree of control that organized labor exerts over city government. Repeat after us: Killing jobs does not benefit workers.

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