The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today to amend its Living Wage Ordinance to give about 5,000 contract workers at LAX and other city-controlled airports a raise.
The ordinance was sent to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office for his signature, which is required for the raises to take effect.
The ordinance required contractors at city-owned airports to pay employees at least $11.25 per hour, or $10 per hour plus $1.25 toward health insurance. With the mayor's signature, it will requires $14.50 per hour, or $10 per hour plus $4.50 toward health insurance.
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Hundreds of airport workers -- including security officers, baggage handlers, maintenance crews, parking attendants and wheelchair attendants -- cheered and wept inside the council chamber as the vote was announced. Some of them chanted “Si, se puede,” or “Yes, it can be done,” the motto of the United Farm Workers.
In endorsing the raises, Councilwoman Janice Hahn said “we've got to invest in the people that make the airport work.”
“I think this is really a no-brainer for us,” Councilman Paul Koretz said. “What we're doing is we're guaranteeing even with this increase a really minimal, barely living wage. We can't do less.”
Councilman Greig Smith said now was “not the time for that kind of policy.”
“We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the modern history of the city, the highest bankruptcy rate in the country in modern history, and we want to put an additional burden on business?” Smith asked, rhetorically.
The union-led living wage movement first gained momentum in the mid- 1990s in Baltimore, then spread to Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. By 2007, at least 140 cities had passed living wage ordinances, which establish minimum wages for contractors who have significant deals with municipalities.