Los Angeles Business Journal

Small businesses will benefit from raising pay for hotel workers.

OP-ED: Two Views By Reiko Roberts Monday, January 27, 2014

When you enter my secondhand clothing shop in Los Feliz, there are two things that you are guaranteed to find: quality secondhand clothes and people who know how to stretch a dollar. Unfortunately, there are far too many people being forced in this struggling economy to find ways to make ends meet, even as they work hard to try and get ahead.

As an entrepreneur, I am proud of the fact that I have managed to survive the worst economic crisis to hit the nation since the Great Depression. But if my business is ever really going to endure, my customers are going to need to earn more in order to have more to spend beyond food for their table and a roof to cover their heads. That’s why I, along with more than 700 other small businesses in Los Angeles, support the proposal by a coalition called Raise LA to increase the wages of employees at large hotels who live and work in this city.

Small-business owners understand having to cut costs. We are constantly looking at our bottom line and trying to reduce what goes out while maintaining the quality of our products and services. We’re trying to survive as small fish in the sea of big businesses.

Still, we know that economies grow when people have more money in their pockets to spend at the grocery store, and at local restaurants and shops like my secondhand clothing store.

Unlike my shop, the city’s large hotels – many of which received public money or tax incentives when they were built – thrive in a multibillion-dollar tourism industry that is growing at a healthy rate. These large hotels are thriving because of a combination of L.A.’s legendary weather and tremendous public investment in things like the Los Angeles Convention Center and our rapidly improving public transit system, and they should be an economic driver in Los Angeles rather than the largest provider of poverty jobs. Many of them are reporting record numbers in business, while a large percentage of their workers is eligible for government assistance. That means small businesses are subsidizing their low wages through our tax dollars.

Increasing the minimum wage in the hotel industry will not only boost sales across the city as people buy more of the things they need, but it will provide small businesses with more money to hire additional employees. That means more jobs for people who need them.

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