THE LOS ANGELES City Council last week learned a valuable lesson: When you take a gratuitous bite out of a local industry, the business community may well bite back. Unfortunately for Los Angeles taxpayers, that lesson may prove expensive.
The council, whose members are largely beholden to local labor unions, in November extended the "living wage" ordinance -- which mandates that companies doing business with the city must pay their workers at least $10.64 an hour in wages and benefits -- to a dozen hotels near the airport. The thin justification for the move was that the hotels benefit from their proximity to a city-owned facility -- LAX -- and therefore should comply with the same rules as city contractors.
Business groups rightly cried foul and have since collected twice the number of signatures needed to take the matter to voters. Assuming that the petition is verified by the city clerk, the council will have to decide whether to rescind the wage extension or submit it to the ballot, which could cost taxpayers anywhere from $100,000 (if it's part of another citywide election) to $6 million (if it's a one-off).
The council should stop throwing good money after bad policy and instead withdraw the law. The living-wage extension is an unwarranted and capricious government intrusion into private industry that could chase businesses out of Los Angeles while encouraging hotels to raise prices or lay off workers. It reinforces the growing notion that City Hall is not friendly toward employers.