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Stop fighting the 'living wage'

June 11, 2008|Peter Dumon | Peter Dumon is the owner/ operator of the Radisson Hotel LAX.

Many successful business owners have the foresight to see great potential in their environment and are responsive to change as their businesses evolve. As the owner of a large hotel on Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport, I am well aware of the opportunity for economic growth and prosperity in the area, fueled in part by an increasingly important hospitality industry.

Century Boulevard is home to the largest concentration of hotel rooms in Los Angeles County and has the highest industry revenue of all the region's sub-markets. The hotels on the boulevard are enjoying higher occupancies than ever before, resulting in a tremendous increase in profits from previous years. However, the corridor is still a relative bargain for travelers when compared to other markets in the county and those around other major international airports.

Tapping this potential -- which would add jobs and enhance the tax base for Los Angeles -- should be the goal of all economic stakeholders, including my fellow hotel owners, organized labor and government. But to do so, the hospitality industry must end the many long-standing business/labor disputes on Century Boulevard. Foremost among them is the controversial and emotional disagreement over the "living wage" ordinance.

The city of Los Angeles passed a law in 2007 that required a dozen LAX-area hotels to provide salary and benefits equal to $10.64 an hour to their workers. California's 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld the law, and the state Supreme Court let that ruling stand. I and four other hotel owners have agreed to comply with the law. It goes into effect July 5 unless the remaining hotel owners mount a campaign to force a referendum on it.

Management and labor need to stop fighting each other on the living wage law. There should be one simple goal: serving the traveling public. If we do this well, we can easily afford to pay our associates a living wage.

Although this is in the interest of many constituencies, hotel owners are really the ones who stand to gain the most from dropping their illogical opposition to the law. A vigorous, well-trained labor market benefits our bottom line. Dedicated and fairly compensated workers committed to a career in the industry will help us increase our guest-satisfaction levels while reducing employee turnover. In short, the living wage is a profit-enhancing idea.

Oddly, some businesses, including some of my peers on Century Boulevard, view their employees as costs to be contained rather than resources to be nurtured. Are we really so presumptuous as to assume that these men and women who operate our hotels, clean our guest rooms and cook and serve our meals should not benefit from the success they helped produce? It is our workers who execute our vision.

This vision is not a pipe dream; it is tangible and easily achievable. The Century Boulevard market, the primary gateway to Los Angeles for millions of people annually, can replicate the success of the Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles markets and enjoy increased prosperity and profitability through the common-sense support of a living wage for workers.

I have invested in this vision of prosperity, and for the sake of economic growth for all on the boulevard, I urge my fellow business owners to do the same. Now is the time for hotel proprietors to stop fighting the living wage.

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