Tourism is the backbone of L.A.'s economy, according to city leaders. Yet as hotels rebound, one 37-year-old hotel dishwasher says he's working two full-time jobs to make ends meet. He says he's sleeping four hours a day to get out of poverty.
"The city's average poverty rate is a staggering: 19 percent, the largest of any major city in the country," said L.A. City Councilman Curren Price.
To turn it around, city councilmembers on Tuesday called for a study of a hotel worker pay raise to $15.37 per hour, double the federal minimum wage and almost double the state minimum wage.
"This is about the ripple impact that this will have on the economy," said L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
"They are discouraging the further investments into the city," said Robert Amano, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles.
Amano says what L.A. needs is more attractions, a football team and more downtown hotels. He says an ordinance that requires higher wages will chase away investors.
In the LAX area, where a similar ordinance raised pay seven years ago, he says the hotels have suffered.
"In order to make the operational ends meet they've had to cut jobs, go from full-time to part-time, close restaurants, diminish their amenities and services to their guests," said Amano.
City leaders say the hotels have cashed in on tourism-related services that the city pays for: Metro lines, improvements at the Convention Center, maintaining Hollywood attractions.
As the hotel wage hike study proceeds, one councilman signals that other industries may be next.
"If mandating a higher wage for some workers has a ripple effect of creating a better wage for other workers, that is a damn good thing and I am happy to do that," said Bonin.