Step Aside New York City. Los Angeles’s Populism is For Real – New Republic

By Nancy L. Cohen, Jan. 13, 2014

Between Bill de Blasio’s mayoral landslide in New York, last week’s anniversary of the War on Poverty, and the GOP’s discovery of the poor, income inequality is the talk of the season—and Los Angeles is about to join, if not lead, the conversation. Later this month, two City Council members will introduce a motion to raise the minimum wage to a nation-leading $15.37 an hour for hotel workers—nearly double the California minimum wage of $8.1 Granted, that record-setting wage would apply only to one industry in one city, but unlike many of the other populist proposals making headlines, L.A.’s targeted strike against economic inequality might actually pass.

Once famed as a bastion of anti-unionism and bald-faced business rule, the city is now governed by a Democratic super-majority that is largely sympathetic to a seasoned and influential progressive movement. The hospitality industry is profitable and growing, can’t outsource, and has no interest in relocating. (After all, it doesn’t take a polar vortex to draw tens of millions of tourists to L.A. each year.) Should it pass, the minimum-wage measure would immediately put roughly $73 million into the pockets of working people—and could provide a blueprint for liberal strongholds across the country. “As a large city, success here would get the attention of the whole nation,” says Maria Elena Durazo, head of the 600,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which is spearheading the proposal with the local hotel workers’ union, UNITE HERE. Failure, on the other hand, would throw cold water on a populist movement just as it’s gaining momentum. Read more at the New Republic

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Nancy L. Cohen