Updated at 5:02 p.m. on Dec. 16, 2014

Two hotel industry groups sued the city of Los Angeles in federal court Tuesday challenging the recent passage of a $15.37-per- hour minimum wage for workers at many hotels in the city.

The lawsuit filed by the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association contends the local wage hike ordinance oversteps federal laws governing the relationship between labor unions and employers.

Rob Wilcox, spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, said the city has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but “we are confident that the ordinance is lawful and valid.”

The City Council in October approved an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $15.37 an hour for workers at hotels in the city with 300 or more rooms, starting July 1. Hotels with at least 150 rooms will have to comply by July 1, 2016.

Unionized hotels in many cases are exempt from the wage hike, since workers are already covered by a negotiated contract.

The lawsuit contends the exception for unionized hotels unfairly gives labor unions leverage during bargaining, and argues that the wage hike should be invalidated because a local entity should not be able to change the federally governed relationship between labor and management.

“For over 50 years, there has been consensus that a single set of rules governing labor relations is good for the long-term best interests of management, unions and workers,” American Hotel & Lodging Association President Katherine Lugar said. “However, the city’s ordinance is clearly designed to put a thumb on the scale in favor of labor and disrupts the careful balance between labor and management.”

Lugar said the city’s actions set a “very dangerous precedent” and “compelled us to seek legal recourse.”

She said the hotel industry group, which represents hotel operators nationwide, will fight any other similar wage-increase ordinances.

She added hotel industry representatives are “prepared to work with local officials” on wage increases that apply to all workers, “but we cannot – – and will not — stand by when recent actions by the City Council single out hotels.”

Chip Rogers, the interim president of Asian American Hotel Owners Association, which represents more than 13,500 small business members, said the city is being drawn into a fight between unions and hotels.

“The City Council doesn’t have the authority to rewrite federal labor law, and this ordinance effectively gives unions the ability to pick and choose when and where the provisions of this ordinance will be enforced. That’s not right,” Rogers said.

— City News Service

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