DCB Clients Help Defeat Challenge to Hotel Living Wage Ordinance

In 2005, UNITE HERE Local 2850 with the help of community group East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) persuaded voters in the City of Emeryville California to approve an initiative ordinance setting a higher local minimum wage just for hotel workers. It also requires workers be retained when hotels are sold, provides premium pay if housekeepers have to clean more than 5000 square feet per day (adjusted downwards for checkout rooms), and provides for access to the hotel by organizations helping employees for the purpose of assisting in ordinance enforcement. Two hotels, led by the Woodfin, sued in federal court. Woodfin Suites v. City of Emeryville, USDC N.D. Cal. Case No. 4:06-01254. Federal judge Saundra Braun Armstrong issued a 30-page opinion rejecting their motion for preliminary injunction on August 22, 2006. She found either the hotels did not have standing to make various claims (for example, to complain about the ordinance violating employees’ privacy in requiring payroll records be provided to the City for enforcement purposes), or found their arguments lacked merit (the Hotels claimed the ordinance was preempted by federal labor law and invalid under equal protection principles). EBASE with the union’s help participated as an amicus (“friend of the court”) submitting briefs and supporting declarations.