UPDATED 🛎️ WeHo kicks the can on critical state of business PTO and CPI

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Hope falls flat for timely relief from city’s business-busting laws 

La Boheme owner Lucien Tudor holds a protest sign referencing Mayor Sepi Shyne as he sits amid opponents of a measure to relax minimum wage rules on Monday night at City Council’s meeting in West Hollywood. (📸/BRG)

West Hollywood City Council punted on deciding whether to scale back the mandatory, continuous wage increases and paid time off requirements loathed by local business owners, who came out to the Monday night meeting in droves with high hopes their pleas had finally been heard.

Lacking the decisive fifth vote of Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson, who was off traveling, the council could not reach a consensus on the most controversial provisions of agenda item 5B, which would have exempted full-service restaurants and bars from paying the sky-high minimum wage rate to servers earning their lion’s share in tips. Additionally, it would have reconfigured the accrual rate for the extensive sick leave and paid time off guaranteed to WeHo workers, which even part-time employees currently enjoy. 

Mayor Sepi Shyne, who helped craft the policy with labor union UNITE HERE Local 11, and Councilmember Chelsea Byers, an ardent supporter of it, insisted more time and research were needed before changes should be made, and that Erickson should be present for the discussion.

“When we came up with the minimum wage ordinance, there were many meetings with business owners and meetings with workers,” said Shyne, visibly perturbed by frustrated groans and boos coming from the audience at various moments. “Tonight, this is a substantive change without any workers having been consulted.”

Members of UNITE HERE, mostly hotel workers, packed the audience in their familiar red t-shirts to serve as mouthpieces for the union’s top brass in opposing changes to the wage ordinance. Councilmember Lauren Meister reminded her colleagues that these union members were exempt from the proposed new rules they came out to speak against. 

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“When you say we need to speak to employees,” Meister responded to Shyne, “the group of employees that we really haven’t talked to are the employees at the bars and restaurants.”

Curiously, the honor of reciting the pledge of allegiance before the meeting was given to Danielle Wilson, a leader at UNITE HERE often tasked with defending the union’s aggressive approaches.

In an unusual twist, the red shirts in the crowd were matched by an equal number of black shirts, i.e. the dozens of supporters of the “My WeHo/Keep WeHo Open” campaign organized by the Chamber of Commerce to advocate for the changes. 

Addressing that group, Byers said she was not ready to make a decision on the matters Monday night but that the business community’s calls for help were not falling on deaf ears.

“I do hear from this room and from the number of letters that we received, and comments and conversations happening over the last several months, that this one-size-fits-all approach is not serving our community in the best way possible,” Byers said. “I think we do need to give this a bit more time to do that. And I know that that will give us a sense of frustration to folks, but I do feel the sense of divisiveness can be stemmed if we have more meaningful conversations around this.”

While Meister and Councilmember John Heilman were prepared to support the provisions, Byers and Shyne were not, and so they were removed from the proposal package, which included other olive branches to the business community such as the waiving of fees and the conducting of the study referenced by Meister. The revised packaged was approved in a unanimous vote.

City Hall was directed to bring back the wage and time off provisions once the study was complete. City Manager David Wilson estimated that would not happen before April of next year, leaving the upcoming increases to the minimum wage rate to occur as scheduled — dashing the hopes of the black-shirted residents that relief would come anytime soon.

A sign supporting the campaign to loosen minimum wage regulations sits in the window of Atacama in the Design District on Melrose Ave. (📸/BRG)

 


 

West Hollywood’s business community has been sounding the alarm over the existential threat it’s facing from unaffordable wage increases and the minefield of regulations set forth by City Hall. After years of ignoring their S.O.S., City Hall now seems to be taking it seriously, but the solutions they’re proposing might be tough for City Council to swallow.

Tonight the councilmembers will review a plan to rehabilitate the state of business in West Hollywood, which the Chamber of Commerce believes is in critical condition. The Chamber has been at the forefront of recent efforts to persuade city leaders that a change in direction is needed to save the city’s struggling local businesses, many of which have already succumbed to the economic pressures imposed by West Hollywood’s policies and politics.

The Chamber is rallying local business owners, their employees and other concerned citizens to address City Council directly tonight, starting with a 4 p.m. huddle at La Boheme to go over the game plan, part of the “My WeHo/Keep WeHo Open” awareness campaign.

“WeHo’s businesses have reached a critical tipping point in their survival and as costs of doing business sharply rise, residents are finding it more and more difficult to afford shopping, eating, and playing local — or that their favorite go-to spots have closed,” the campaign’s manifesto reads. “We are losing what makes this city special — our neighborhood-serving places.”

The Chamber has asked the city to hold off on a wage increase tied to the Consumer Price Index set to go into effect next year; to eliminate paid time off for part time workers and reduce it for full-time workers; and to include tips and commissions when calculating the wages restaurants must pay their waitstaff.

City Hall is convinced it’s the right way to go.

Their proposal would create a separate minimum wage rate for full-service restaurants and bars, contingent upon the provision that all employees receive a living compensation equal to or greater than the West Hollywood Minimum Wage Rate. It’s the type of nuanced approach that detractors say was lacking from the controversial ordinance passed two years ago which gave WeHo the highest minimum wage rate in the nation.

The item would also institute a moratorium on new minimum wage increases through the year 2025 or an alignment with the City of Los Angeles’ wage policies. This recommendation is noteworthy as it indicates a strategic pause in wage increases, allowing businesses time to adjust and stabilize in the post-pandemic economic climate. It also suggests a synchronization of wage policies with the larger metropolitan area, allowing WeHo retailers to remain competitive with their rivals across the city limits.

The proposal specifically acknowledges the “critical state of business” in WeHo as described by the Chamber. A separate staff report includes notes on the many one-on-one discussions city staffers have had with individual businesses in town, whose specific concerns almost surely persuaded City Hall to propose these big changes. Nearly all the city’s major hotels, along with restaurants and retailers including Catch L.A., Anawalt Lumber and Strings of Life Cafe, told the city that the wage ordinances were creating problems (although Target and LAZ Parking reported that higher wages had actually helped them attract and retain employees). 

While City Hall’s proposal might inspire optimism in WeHo’s business community, the real question remains whether it can get approved by City Council.

While moderate-leaning Councilmembers Lauren Meister and John Heilman are almost sure to support the proposal, the council’s progressive majority — Mayor Sepi Shyne, Mayor Pro Tem John Erickson and Councilmember Chelsea Byers, standing in for former Councilmember Lindsey Horvath — remain staunchly in support of the current policies they helped devise in 2021 with controversial labor union UNITE HERE Local 11.

Opposition to the policies in the years since has only hardened their positions.

A “yes” vote by any of the three would represent a major political re-alignment, potentially undermining their solidarity with big labor interests and thus the union’s crucial support in their re-election bids. At least one defection would be required for the proposal to pass.

Erickson will go back before the voters next year, and so will Shyne should she fail to make the runoff election in her race for Congress. Byers’ term ends in 2026. 

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Kevin
Kevin
3 months ago

As if I needed another reason to not eat a Cafe La Boheme, seeing the narcissistic manager with that sign is it. He fires his bus staff, makes employees walk to a city council meaning to support lowering their pay and then has the nerve to say business lives manner. Time to boycott La Boheme so we can get a better operator in the space.

Larry Block
3 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

That is absolutely untrue. No body advocated for lowering anybody’s wage. I’m not going to post the rest of your nasty comments that are blatantly false.

Kevin
Kevin
3 months ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Larry, he led his employees to a city hall meeting to protest the new minimum wage. How is that not advocating for lowering their pay. Disappointed you also react like this.

Larry Block
3 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

I dont think he led his employees their against their will. And it would be no different than all the UNITE HERE employees who line up to speak at the behest of the union.

Morty
Morty
3 months ago

The problem is none of these city council members have real life business experience. They don’t know what it’s like to run a small business in WEHO and apparently they don’t really care. They receive campaign cash from the corrupt UNITE union so they vote the way the union tells them to vote. The only way to rid WEHO of this vermin infestation is to vote these corrupt union supporters out of office. The sooner the better before more businesses shut down.

david
david
3 months ago

. I feel for all involved when elected officials continue to kick the can instead of listening to their constituents.How many surveys does one need to understand what is clearly going on.I also am angered that such an important agenda item wasn’t more thought out with Mayor Pro Tempor Erickson’s absence and the City Manager not realizing until after the fact that they should have been talking to employees as well as the business owners.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
3 months ago

It was painful to see several Spanish speaking members of Unite Here who spoke, who clearly believed that the item was going to impact their wages; apparently they were not informed that the proposal specifically exempted hotel workers. Indeed this was not a proposal to roll back the minimum wage. While Mayor Shyne made a point to state that West Hollywood workers where earning more thanks to the City’s ordinance, some aspects of the mandates, particularly increased paid time off, had resulted in losses of businesses and loss of jobs. So while I am happy that workers are earning more,… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Steve, I don’t buy your claim there are fewer employment opportunities. I know of at least 4 businesses (retail and restaurant) who can’t find staff. If you want a job in West Hollywood, you can get one almost immediately.

Larry Block
3 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

Your absolutely wrong. In our entire 14 years at BlockParty I have received more applications for employment this year then in any single year. Every shop, including the markets, bars and restaurants have reported a staff reductions of 10-25% or more. Perhaps you have an available job to post.

Kevin
Kevin
3 months ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Because people like to work for you so Kudos for you. My friends are having a lot of trouble finding staff, especially trained wait staff.

Que Lastima
Que Lastima
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

It was also painful for those of us who can speak or understand Spanish to hear the outrageous liberties the young translator took in “reworking” the words of those Spanish Speaking workers. The Chamber should review the tapes and have a Spanish Speaker provide an “honest” translation. To Mr. Outraged (below): the “g” in campaign is silent like the “g” in malign. I think, despite Mr. La Boheme’s not being a native English Speaker he may have been making a pun. It is much like the famous story about when Jane Harlow attended a party given by English Aristocrat Margot… Read more »

REED MAN
REED MAN
3 months ago

Sad. Over 20 years in Weho, and finally saw the corrupt council. Living part time in Idaho, I’m able to stomach the Shyne-Monster when I’m here

Kevin
Kevin
3 months ago
Reply to  REED MAN

If you don’t vote in weho, don’t complain.

mikie frank
mikie frank
3 months ago

they kicked can to April so the so that Shyne could remain in the pocket of Unite Here Local 11 through her run for Congress in March. Disgusting. sellling out our city once again. And how ridiculous to ask our employees to weigh in on whether this would be what they wanted and asking if they think a higher wage is better! They have no idea what the business owner is facing or the nuances of runnning a biz. A business owner doesnt want to share their troubles with employees. Double edged sword. Shyne said that when they made the… Read more »

West
West
3 months ago
Reply to  mikie frank

Shameless politicians like Sepi love to rewrite history with themselves as the heroes. Thanks for this reminder of the ugly reality.

Outraged
Outraged
3 months ago

People who can’t even spell “campaign” do not inspire much confidence. Anybody that ignorant should not be owning a business; they should be sweeping its floor.

Harsh
Harsh
3 months ago
Reply to  Outraged

Lucien is very smart & articulate. English not being his first language, perhaps someone made this sign for him with the error. Doesn’t require this harsh critique.🙄 BTW he is now CEO but started by sweeping the floor and serving.

Mikie
Mikie
3 months ago
Reply to  Outraged

I wonder how your spelling is in Romanian? Do you even speak more than one language? Your pettiness is showing!

Last edited 3 months ago by Mikie
JF1
JF1
3 months ago
Reply to  Outraged

English is not this gentleman’s first language, easy up and give him a break.

Clever Lucien
Clever Lucien
3 months ago
Reply to  Outraged

After a second look at the sign, perhaps the spelling wad purposeful. Cam-pain literally a pain in the rear while Sepi is neglecting the community.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
3 months ago
Reply to  Outraged

But he is running a business Blanche and a very successful one at that; one that has long been a landmark, anchor business on Santa Monica. I am grateful to Lucien for his work ethic and dedication to West Hollywood.

Joshua88
Joshua88
3 months ago

Your bias is showing again, Mr Garcia.
Perhaps another semi OpEd category should be attached next time.

This is a serious issue and nothing wrong with getting more data.

JF1
JF1
3 months ago

and more taxpayer money spent on the obvious…what they’ve done is obviously not working…do they really need more data to point on the obvious?

JF1
JF1
3 months ago
Reply to  Joshua88

How many more stores will be forced to close in anticipation of “more data?”

Truly...
Truly...
3 months ago

So, you have a very important agenda item that needed to be addressed some time ago BUT at the last minute Shyne is concerned there was no input from employees. Didn’t they realize this omission weeks ago? Extremely poor organization and planning. The most important items are now kicked down the road to, perhaps, as late as April. And didn’t they know John E. would be in Rome? What a mess ! The Council becomes more dysfunctional with each meeting. It is so sad to see what has happened to West Hollywood. (FYI – J am not a business owner.)

City Residents & Business Owners Deserves Better
City Residents & Business Owners Deserves Better
3 months ago
Reply to  Truly...

Organizational Skills-D
Foresight-F
Word Salad-A
Procrastination -B+
Scope & Comprehension-D
Compensation-A+

JF1
JF1
3 months ago

Shyne, Erickson and Byers are all owned by the union.. they are just mouthpieces. And Meister was correct when she said the only workers they haven’t talked to are the ones in restaurants and bars. If I hear buyers say one more time we have to have “a conversation“ I think I might throw up. All they do is talk and when they do act it’s only in Unite Here’s best interest. They are political hacks that have been systematically destroying what took 30+ years to build. Remember this come voting time! Vote. Them. Out.

JF1
JF1
3 months ago
Reply to  JF1

PS. I love the guy from La Boheme’s sign! So spot on. Bravo!

Kevin
Kevin
3 months ago

I am surprised this was on the agenda given there was not a full council. Therefore it is good to push and hoping the business community really lobbies the council on the smart changes to the law while leaving the better parts alone. Compromise is not a four letter word.

vote them out
vote them out
3 months ago

The three Hamas supporters on the West Hollywood city council can be counted on for NOTHING good. Unfortunately, Unethical Erickson has licked so many people that he will no doubt be reelected.

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