Community activists, religious leaders and labor unions are mounting a grassroots campaign to stop the attempted repeal of Santa Monica's new living wage law.
Opponents of the living wage, led by a handful of luxury beach hotels, must collect 5,700 signatures by August 24 to qualify a referendum for the ballot.
“We are warning voters that the city’s luxury hotels have ignored their voice and are once again trying to deny workers a decent wage,” said Vivian Rothstein with Santa Monicans Allied for Responsible Tourism (SMART), which first proposed the living wage law. “Our message is simple: Protect low-wage tourism workers—don’t sign the luxury hotels’ petition to repeal the living wage.”
Last year, the hotels spent a million dollars on Measure KK, an anti-living wage initiative. It was overwhelmingly defeated, with four out of five voters rejecting the initiative. “The people have voted,” said Rothstein. “Special interests are simply trying to manipulate the political process for their own gain.”
Santa Monica’s living wage law would raise wages to .50 an hour for some 2,000 low-wage tourism workers in the city’s booming Coastal Zone. The majority of these workers are now living in conditions of poverty or near poverty, according to a study released by the city last year, and most lack health care benefits. The family of the average low-wage Coastal Zone worker is eligible for more than ,000 in anti-poverty government assistance.
Santa Monica’s luxury beach hotels saw their revenues double between 1993 and 1999 as part of the phenomenal success of the city’s tourism industry. That success was made possible by a 0 million investment of taxpayer money to rehabilitate the city’s downtown and beachfront areas.
Less than one percent of Santa Monica’s businesses—an estimated 40 out of 10,000--would be affected by the wage law. The law includes a hardship exemption for businesses that would be adversely impacted.
“We are disappointed that our largest businesses will not accept their responsibility to treat their workers with respect and dignity, “said Rev. Sandie Richards, minister at The Church in Ocean Park. “This community is built on the values of justice and fairness, and that includes a living wage. We believe voters will uphold these values and reject this effort to kill the living wage.”
Volunteers and donations are needed to help stop the repeal drive. To find out more, please call (310) 572-9880.