Minimum Wage

Some L.A. Unionized Hotel Workers Realize They've Been Screwed Over

Exemptions to minimum wage laws give labor power at the expense of their own members.

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Hotel room
Credit: Erwin Purnomo Sidi | Dreamstime.com

California's upcoming, poorly thought out (beyond the political gains) massive minimum wage boost to $15 per hour does not grant unions an exemption. They will not be permitted to "collectively bargain" away the price floor in exchange for other benefits, just like businesses who are not unionized.

While most folks may assume that this has always been the case, in reality, cities and municipalities that have set their own minimum wages and other employment mandates have included exemptions for unions. Many people aren't aware of it, and it may seem odd on the surface, given that the unions themselves are pushing for the increases.

This is what happened in Los Angeles when the city mandated a special minimum wage of $15.37 that applied only to hotel workers. It included an exemption for workers represented by unions, which essentially meant this minimum wage was really a fine for not being unionized. Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times took note that there are union workers that feel betrayed by these agreements and realize exactly what they're for—to help unions expand their power and membership, not to actually help workers:

Alicia Yale, 42, a waitress at the Sheraton Universal, said she's dumbfounded that Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel employees in Los Angeles and Orange counties, fought for her to make less money than workers at non-union hotels.

"Why is it more of a benefit to be in a union? The union isn't really doing anything for us," she said. "It's completely upside-down. They want to pay us less than the minimum wage."

Yale, a mother of two young children, said she was unconvinced by labor leaders' arguments that the exemptions were designed to secure better benefits. She said many low-wage workers at the Sheraton lack health insurance because the union's contract requires them to work at least 100 hours a month for five consecutive months to qualify.

Another hotel worker said she was bluntly told exactly why the exemptions existed:

Penny Moore, a bartender and former union shop steward at the Sheraton Universal, said she was perplexed in the weeks after the 2014 law passed when a Sheraton human-resources official told her that many employees would not be getting the promised pay raise. After phoning the union office, she said, she received a call from Unite Here Local 11 organizer Fred Pascual.

"He said I've got to look at the bigger picture," Moore said, that "this is going to make all the hotels go union." She said Pascual did not elaborate on his remark, but she interpreted it to mean hotels would embrace collective bargaining agreements in order to pay less.

"There is no other purpose for it," said Moore, who already makes more than $16 an hour and did not stand to benefit from the increase. "It doesn't make me happy to have to attack them like this. But the alternative is my co-workers" lose out. "And that's not OK."

I wouldn't expect Unite Here to care much about Moore's criticism. The Times notes that the union has seen a 73 percent increase in membership since they've embarked on this effort to control hotel wages in a time when private unions are seeing drops.

Of course, now that California has a new minimum wage mandate, this exemption will be phased out. The state minimum wage law does not forbid union-negotiated undercutting.

Sadly, while the story looks at the difference in pay for union hotels vs. non-union hotels, it does not consider what it all means for employment figures. Have those non-union hotels had to cut positions or freeze hiring to pay for these new burdens? It doesn't say. It may well be that the reason those union workers even have jobs is because of the exemption the union negotiated that their non-union opposition could not have.

But apparently the fight over who has to pay Los Angeles' $15 minimum wage (passed and planned to be phased in before the new state shift) will continue in the meantime. As Matt Welch noted before, unions attempted to get the same exemption in a city-wide increase but failed. But they're not giving up. There are "add-on clauses" under consideration this week that could affect who will have to pay.

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  1. “He said I’ve got to look at the bigger picture,”

    “This is about the bottom line, doll-face, not the sob story of every little cog.” Then he hung up and lit up a cigar before snorting another line of coke off of a Filipino boy’s ass.

    1. Nice Burroughs style.

      1. I didn’t see anything about jizzing while be choked. Still, I’d give it an A-.

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  2. So explain to me how California and New York Dems supporting this is evidence of the Libertarian Moment? Just because Bill triangulated when the Republicans won congress 20 years ago?

    1. Who said it was? Who said everything relates to more individualization? Do you just troll so you can have an excuse to retreat to your safe space with your teddy bear and jammies? Are you not man enough to retreat there for no reason but you want to?

      1. Yes.
        Was that rhetorical?

      2. Who said everything relates to more individualization

        Here is Gillespie trying to claim about how Trump and Sanders are evidence of the libertarian moment:

        This too is uncertain: Will the rest of us?the plurality that identifies as independent, the growing plurality that is identified by Gallup as libertarian, and others?sift through the smoldering ruins of the Dems and Reps, gather what is salvageable, and build a future in which politics is subjugated to its proper and smaller role in our lives, our liberties, and our pursuits of happiness?

        1. Well, Nick is obviously either way over-optimistic or thinking of a very broad definition of some sort of cultural libertarianism.
          But no one ever said that everything that happens is part of some libertarian moment.

      3. Also rather disingenuous to attack safe spaces and then calling me a troll and telling me to shut up.

        1. Did I miss the part where xe told you to shut up?

          Troll bettar.

          1. Yah, you and me both missed that Trump and Sanders part too. We need to learn read better.

          2. What was the “go to your safe space” supposed to mean?

            1. More polite than saying, “Die in a fire.”

                1. Found on Avenue Dead?

    2. Why don’t you start by linking to anyone claiming that government-imposed minimum wages are evidence of a libertarian moment.

  3. “He said I’ve got to look at the bigger picture,” Moore said, that “this is going to make all the hotels go union.”

    Mandate a price floor for the competition above what you charge, and you get all the business. Simple.

    Union leadership first benefit themselves and their power. The Iron Law of Bureaucracy.

  4. Penny Moore, a bartender and former union shop steward at the Sheraton Universal, said she was perplexed in the weeks after the 2014 law passed when a Sheraton human-resources official told her that many employees would not be getting the promised pay raise.

    Wait…her name cannot actually be “Penny Moore”. That is far too perfect.

    1. better than dreadful?

  5. I suppose being on the chessboard sounds fun until you realize you’re the pawn.

    1. “I’m nobody’s pawn, Shawn. I’m a queen.”

  6. If there really was a fourth estate with real investigative reporters they would follow the money flowing from unions to favored officials. Since the fourth estate has morphed into another entertainment industry (poor man’s reality TV) there will be no fact finding,nor following the money.
    And the media criticizes Trump for being “just a reality TV Star”.
    ROFL

    1. The ‘fourth estate’ didn’t morph into anything – its *always* been another entertainment industry.

    2. ….and progressive mouthpiece.

      1. what’s the collective noun for journalists? a douchebag of reporters?

  7. RE: Some L.A. Unionized Hotel Workers Realize They’ve Been Screwed Over
    Exemptions to minimum wage laws give labor power at the expense of their own members.

    What?
    Unions screwing over their own members? That can’t be right. Only labor organizations infiltrated by organized crime would commit such a dastardly deed, and we all know how pure as snow unions are.
    Just ask Jimmy Hoffa.

    1. Just ask Jimmy Hoffa.

      Do you know where to find him?

      1. Do you know where to find him?

        He can’t talk now.
        He’s buried with work.
        I’m sure you’ll understand.

        1. LOL

          I met his son in ’72. Talked to him several times when he visited the farm I was living on. He always said that the press was so unfair to his father.

          1. hahahahahahahaha…schadenfreude

  8. so if they decertify they get a raise?

  9. so if they decertify they get a raise?

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  15. raising minimum wage sounds like a good idea to people who have never had a low wage job I guess, but for some people working more hours is the only way to make more money, so why the fuck are we making it harder for people who want to wash dishes 80 hours a week to do so? It’s not like they would be spending that time fulfilling their real dreams of sleeping on piles of money.

  16. The answer to this is quite simple. You want a raise, dump your union representation. You’ll find your life will be much easier when you do.

    1. A raise plus no union dues.

  17. I would support California, Illinois and New York succeeding from Union. Maybe then the Progressives would leave the rest of us alone.

  18. The California law doesn’t have a union exemption…yet.

    1. My guess is they will wait until there are complaints, and then offer that up as a way to blunt the higher wage.

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  20. “It doesn’t make me happy to have to attack them like this. But the alternative is my co-workers” lose out. “And that’s not OK.”

    Is the overuse of “…not OK” as the objection of preference among SJWs and those influenced by them as annoying to others as it is to me? Something isn’t “objectionable”, “stupid”, “unfair”, or even “outrageous”. It’s “not OK”. That’s something one would say to a child who lacks the vocabulary to understand more complex descriptions.

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