Santa Barbara's minimum-wage bump hits hotels harder, sooner


The entire industry is aware that increases to the minimum wage are coming, and have already been approved in many markets. One such market, Santa Monica, Calif., took to a $15-per-hour minimum wage as of January, but the details about the increase were not fully made clear.

That is, until now. The Santa Monica City Council formally passed the final approval for its wage hike as of April 30. Worker pay will be scaled up over a four-year period starting July 1 of this year when minimum-wage workers will receive a $10.50-per-hour wage, eventually reaching $15 per hour in 2020. Select businesses with fewer than 25 employees will be able to receive a one-year delay, and an 18-month exemption exists for transitional employees. Meanwhile, paid sick leave entitlements will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, giving employers some space to adapt to the new policies.

Hotel minimum wages, however, are starting higher than that at $13.25 per hour in 2016, and will eventually match the Los Angeles hotel minimum wage of $15.37 per hour in 2017, on top of a Consumer Price Index increase.

While many in the industry have accepted that the minimum wage has nowhere to go but up, that last bit about hotels getting a bigger bump and faster is the sort of policy the American Hotel & Lodging Association is opposed to. Dubbing them "extreme wage initiatives," these increases are coming faster than in other industries, and hoteliers feel burned by it. Specifically speaking on this subject, Jay Patel, chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, told HOTEL MANAGEMENT that many hotels already pay their employees above the minimum wage, and such an increase so soon will do more harm than good.

Proponents of the bump, meanwhile, prefer the term "living wage" to describe the increases the city has approved.

"Affordability is one of the city’s five strategic goals and increasing the minimum wage is a big milestone in our pursuit to preserve Santa Monica as an inclusive, affordable, and diverse community,” said Santa Barbara Mayor Tony Vazquez. “This will have a direct impact on workers’ lives, especially those in the service industry. Families will have a little more, which offers more of an opportunity to build a strong future.”