Supporters of the Raise L.A. coalition celebrate a vote of the Los Angeles city council in September 2014. Under the new law, large nonunion hotels in Los Angeles would raise their minimum wage to $15.37 by 2015. The campaign was part of a multi-year strategy led by LAANE and UNITE HERE Local 11 to establish a living wage across the hotel industry. Hotel industry representatives complained that high wages would lead to unemployment for workers. Worker advocates pointed to the large profits of corporate hotels and tax subsidies provide by the city as justification for the higher wage mandate. A representative of LAANE told the L.A. Times, “When employers are saying jobs are going to be lost, they’re really saying, ‘We want to continue to have high profits, so we’re going to fire people.'”
The Working Poor: Challenge to the Religious Community
What is the responsibility of people of faith when confronted with the poverty of working people in a wealthy country? That question is posed by Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) in this 2000 video featuring the testimony of working people, faith leaders, academics, and activists. Speakers include Kent Wong, Maria Elena Durazo, Madeline Janis-Aparicio, Richard Gillett, Anthony Thigpen, and others. The film concludes with a message from Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr.: “When we allow millions and millions of people in this country to work for nothing, we deprive them of their basic dignity, we commit mayhem against them. Jesus of Nazareth said, ‘The laborer deserves his wages.’ The church cannot be the church unless we get into the marketplace and insist that work is dignity, and that every employee, every worker deserves those benefits that enables them to indeed attain an abundant life that is full of the riches spiritual as well as the riches of bread.” (En Español)
The Los Angeles Living Wage Coalition explains the fight to extend the city’s living wage ordinance to workers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This 1998 production features interviews with Madeline Janis-Aparicio (LAANE) and Jackie Goldberg (L.A. City Counsel) as well as scenes of Mike Garcia leading a protest by SEIU Local 1877 at LAX. Rank-and-file workers explain the struggle of living in L.A. while earning low wages.
This video produced by the LA Alliance for a New Economy documents elements of the Living Wage campaign in Los Angeles. An actor dressed as the ghost of Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” haunts Los Angeles city hall warning the mayor and council members to consider the needs of low wage workers in December 1996. The council passed the ordinance covering workers for city contractors, and later voted to override the veto of Mayor Richard Riordan in April 1997.