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Measure S in Laguna Beach considers city law for $18 an hour pay

Voters in Laguna Beach are deciding in this current election whether it’s necessary for the town to have a law focused on the hospitality industry ensuring hotel room attendants and other hospitality workers are paid fair wages and have safe working conditions.

Measure S would amend the city’s Municipal Code to require hotel owners and operators to provide hotel employees a minimum wage of $18 an hour. Additionally, it would ensure workers’ wages increase by $1 every year after 2026, which would be adjusted annually. The City Council could always decide to require a higher wage than what the ordinance requires.

The proposed ordinance would also limit the amount of floor space workers can asked to clean. And it would limit overtime.

Additionally, if approved by voters, the ordinance would require a personal security device be issued to workers. Hotel owners and operators would be also be prohibited from disciplining employees for stopping work to leave a dangerous situation or using a personal security device, unless there was evidence of a false security claim.

The measure, which is sponsored by UniteHere Local 11, is one of two geared toward the hospitality industry in Laguna Beach. A second one the labor group is also supporting would require a public vote on new hotels or major remodels of existing hotels.

Supporting a “yes” vote on Measure S, is Councilman George Weiss, who has sent information to the community on the measure. Weiss said the rising poverty rate in the United States, and specifically in California, is of concern and those in the hospitality industry are among those at risk, he said.

“In Orange County, a worker must make over $40 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment,” he said. “Measure S ensures that hotel workers who clean rooms and wash dishes will make a living wage that helps families live a decent life.”

“These workers are vulnerable and need both wage and job protections not provided by some local hotels,” Weiss said. “Laguna hotels have had record bookings over the last two years. Raising wages for these workers will not be a financial burden.”

Laguna Beach has at least 6 million visitors annually.

But, leaders in the town’s hotel industry say the goals of Measure S are already the standard in Laguna Beach and adding the city as another regulatory enforcement agency is a layer that is unnecessary. Hotels, they say, are already regulated by numerous state and federal regulations.

Mark Christy, a partner at The Ranch Laguna Beach, said the efforts by an out-of-town union aren’t needed in Laguna Beach.

“They are fabricated,” he said. “It’s a non-existent problem.”

Christy, who is also part of a political action committee Protect and Keep Laguna Local, said his staff which ranges from 140 to 300 employees, depending on the season, is already paid $19 an hour in addition to getting “incredible benefits and retirement” plans.

“They’re literally family to us,” he said of his staff. “Panic buttons – every hotel in Laguna already has them. What are you accomplishing here?”

In addition to his property, he said the Montage Resort, Surf and Sand Resort and the Inn at Laguna all have provided documentation to show their employees receive $19 an hour.

“Measure S is a blatant attempt by a Los Angeles-based labor group to force restrictions upon our local hotel and resort employees without their consent or vote,” Christy said.

Representatives with the union did not return calls for comment, but it appears it is planning to seek similar measures on future ballots in other tourist towns. In Anaheim, residents (with the backing of Unite Here Local 11) have submitted language for two proposed initiatives that would likely be on the ballot in 2024, city spokesman Mike Lyster said.

One is similar to the Laguna Beach measure: It would require hotels and large venues such as concert halls, stadiums and convention centers to pay a $25 minimum wage, give workers panic button-type security devices, set limits on housekeepers’ workloads and ban mandatory overtime.

The other measure would require large hotels, theme parks and other businesses in Anaheim’s Resort District to provide up to two weeks of “supplemental paid leave” to workers if they’re ill, in quarantine or caring for sick family members during an outbreak of a communicable disease such as COVID-19.

All registered voters receive a ballot in the mail, which can be returned anytime by election day on Nov. 8. The first local voting centers will open Oct. 29, and more will open ahead of election day. There are also numerous official ballot drop boxes around town.

Staff Writer Alicia Robinson contributed to this story.


Source: Orange County Register

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