The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) has come out with a study which says that tourism promotion by Long Beach is responsible for fostering poverty.
The study – A Tale of Two Cites: How Long Beach’s Investment in Downtown Tourism Has Contributed to Poverty Next Door – says that Long Beach has spent in excess of $750 million in subsidies for the tourism industry, and $100 million since the early 1980s on hotels alone. (goodjobslongbeach.com)
According to the study, workers in Long Beach make 13.6% less than their counterparts doing the same jobs at hotels and motels in Anaheim, 12.2% less than their counterparts in the LAX area, 25.4% less than their counterparts in Santa Monica and 26.9% less than their counterparts in Downtown Los Angeles.
For a bit of background, consider that LAANE’s daily schedule includes making life miserable for at least one of the few remaining non unionized hotels in Los Angeles. And they usually take down these hotels one or two at a time, with a potent mix of placard and banner waving marches and sit-ins, class action lawsuits filed by LAANE approved lawyers on behalf of the targeted hotel’s workers, and a media blitz.
But some bright spark at LAANE probably decided that it would be a lot easier to raise wages across the board if they threw the book at the City and blamed the growth of tourism for creating low wage jobs which they say has engendered poverty. The plan here is to hold the City responsible and make them put pressure on the hotels to hike wages and health insurance coverage for workers. This would have the practical effect of unionizing all the hotels in Long Beach in one stroke.
LAANE conviniently focuses only on the wages as a form of return for the City’s investment, while completely discounting the positive impact of the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent every year by tourists on the local economy.
Leaving aside the authority (or lack thereof) of the study, if you focus on who gets what out of this fight, a few surprising things pop up. First, that it’s in the City’s interest to promote industries like tourism and hospitality, instead of manufacturing, considering the higher income from sales and room taxes. On the other hand, manufacturing jobs provide higher wages and benefits for workers, while providing less income for the City from taxes.
Secondly, LAANE’s voodoo economics report is no laughing matter. It won’t raise any wages, but it could guilt trip the City, at a time when the recession has hit industrial workers very hard, into stopping promotion of the tourism industry and start focusing more on industries which offer higher wages to workers.
Lastly, it would be ironic if the LAANE study succeeds in its effort to kill the tourism industry in Long Beach. The hotel workers end up unemployed, the City loses the tax revenues, and it puts hundreds of tourism service providers out of business.