Hotel workers deserve livable wage

I’m sure you’ve heard that recently the Los Angeles Clippers and the NBA players association did what 99% of people who have been employed by a rotten boss can only dream about doing. They collectively decided they would not play unless the NBA forced Donald Sterling, the bigot owner of the Clippers, who’s racist tirade was caught on audio tape, to sell the franchise. What did they get? Exactly what they wanted.

Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, stood in front of a group of reporters and a nationwide audience thanks to ESPN and assured us that Sterling would no longer have any part in the league and would be forced to sell his team. This was one of the first times in my life where I have witnessed a set employees actually get what they wanted. Of course I’m not surprised, the NBA’s revenue is up to $5 billion a year and any time you have an opportunity to rid your business of a xenophobe you have to take it.

I’m also not surprised that just a few miles from where the Clippers have been performing at exhilarating levels all season long, a group of hotel employees are having trouble getting support for legislation that would increase their pay to a livable wage. So what’s a livable wage? That I cannot tell you for sure because so many factors play into the amount of money an individual needs to support themselves and potentially a family. I can, however, tell you that $9 an hour, California’s minimum wage as of July 1, 2014, is definitely not a livable wage, especially if you are supporting a family.

Currently city officials are awaiting economic studies that will help address any questions that opponents of this legislation may have. Of course, in our country, financial figures supersede common sense and humanitarianism. It is common to neglect the woman who wakes up before dawn, helps her children prepare for school and then goes on to work elongated shifts all to barely get by. Neglecting this issue is validation that the comfort of tourists and business travelers is worth the overbearing sacrifice of the members of this community.

What can we do? First, it’s important to have some accountability. Next time you travel, please be mindful of the person who will clean up after you. Yes, they are getting paid, but, no, it’s not enough.

Next head over to and support this grassroots coalition that is spearheading this effort. Take initiatives like my fellow colleagues who have garnered signatures that say you support a proposal to raise wages for hospitality workers.

Lastly, contact members of your community and your local council members and let them know that this issue needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later.

Richard Carranza is a first year graduate student at the University of Southern California. He wrote this op-ed as part of an assignment at USC.



Published: May 15, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 05