Corporate Constitutional Litigation Beats A Hasty Retreat In Los Angeles

The American Hotel & Lodging Association, which is challenging Los Angeles’s new living wage law for hotel workers, has voluntarily withdrawn 9 of the 10 claims in its complaint. This came just three weeks after Free Speech For People (along with co-signers Courage CampaignEqual Justice Society and Western Center on Law and Poverty) filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Los Angeles.

Our amicus group rebutted the trade group’s claim that the law violates hotel companies’ rights under the Equal Protection Clause. Citing historical materials from the legislative history of the Fourteenth Amendment, indicating that “fair, living wages” were a central concern of the Reconstruction Congress, we explained how LA’s hotel living wage ordinance will lift thousands of poor workers, mostly people of color, out of poverty, without drawing any distinction or creating any division based on race. The ordinance aligns squarely with the spirit and letter of the Equal Protection law, which is intended to protect the interest of workers not businesses.

The hotel trade group and its lawyers probably didn’t anticipate this pushback. Just three weeks later, the corporate plaintiffs withdrew the Equal Protection Clause claim and eight other federal and state constitutional challenges. Only one claim, an alleged conflict with the federal National Labor Relations Act, will go forward. (And this same judge has already hinted that LA’s minimum wage law does not conflict with the NLRA.)

Getting these bogus constitutional claims out of the case is important, no matter how this case is ultimately resolved. As we explained in the LA Daily News, this case is part of a larger corporate assault on living wage laws. The corporate plaintiffs’ retreat from their Equal Protection Clause argument marks a victory for those who believe that debates over minimum wage laws should be decided through the democratic process.

Free Speech For People would like to thank Jonathan Cohen of Rothner, Segall, & Greenstone for his support and counsel.

NOTE: The City of Los Angeles ordinance at issue in this case is separate from the County’s recent vote to increase the minimum wage throughout unincorporated areas of LA County. Free Speech For People will monitor that legislation in case corporate employers file a similar constitutional challenge. We are still engaged in Legal Advocacy in Seattle’s living wage case.

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