The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to increase the hourly minimum wage to $15.37/hour for hotel workers at hotels with 300 rooms or more. Until today, the minimum wage for LA County was $9/hour. My first thought in reading the headline was – “Okay, so how do you cut costs at hotels?” My solution – cut staff and offer daily discounts to guests who choose not to get a daily cleaning service.
I stay at hotels far more often for work than I do for personal travel, but in both cases I rarely want my room cleaned each day. There are plenty of towels, toiletries, snacks and other comforts that just don’t need to be refreshed because of the four waking hours I spent in a hotel room. Beyond those waking hours, I’m asleep, not using anything or making messes. So why do I need my room cleaned every day?
By offering a $5-$10 discount per day, the traveller can save some money – and so can the business. If just 25% of a 300 room hotel chose to take the $10 discount, the hotel would give $700 back to guests. That $700 equals over 45 hours of labor. Then include the reduced cost of tiny soaps and half-full bottles of shampoo that get tossed out, electricity to run vacuums, cleaning sprays, savings in water, electricity and maintenance due to less laundry being washed and dried. While most people have no idea what those other costs are, I’d be willing to bet each hotel chain has business analysts who do know those costs. And I have no doubt that the savings add up over a year, with very little affect to customers.
In general, minimum wage jobs should be just that – jobs. They aren’t careers. They should push people to want a better life. To work hard to get move up and move on. If there’s little motivation to leave a low-paying job, people won’t leave those jobs. They’ll stay in those jobs for years… or decades. I’d hope that anyone making $10 or $15/hr would be working towards something better. Going to school. Learning from a friend how to use computers or how to weld or how to do book keeping – in the hopes that they can get an entry level job at somewhere that pays better and has benefits. I’d hope that anyway.
Now though, the $15/hr job as a receptionist or file clerk will go to those who have prepared and worked towards a better life – and they aren’t likely to leave, because the work is far less demanding than the more manual labor or cooking burgers and making beds. So that leaves the fast-food and hotel works in the same place – cooking and cleaning. And in 5 years, $15/hr won’t be enough. Again.