Regardless of where you stand on the living-wage issue in Los Angeles, you’ve got to admit this: Living-wage proponents have a terrific strategy.

The eventual goal of labor interests is to impose a citywide living wage (which now stands at more than $15 an hour, almost double the minimum wage). But if they push for that aggressively and quickly, they risk coming off as overreaching and could lose, perhaps at the ballot box. Instead, they’ve devised a clever strategy of incrementalism.

First, labor interests got their allies on the Los Angeles City Council in 2006 to pass an ordinance forcing the hotels on Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport to pay their workers a living wage. Their rationale: Those hotels benefit greatly by being near the airport, a city-owned facility. Therefore, the city had the right to impose a living-wage rate.

There was opposition, sure, but it was muted. After all, the target group was small and the rationale was, well, at least somewhat rational. Winning that airport-area battle was a classic camel’s-nose-in-the-tent victory for labor.

After a hiatus for the recession, labor now is ready to take the next step. They’re working toward introducing an ordinance that reportedly would force big hotels (those with 100 rooms or more) to pay their workers a living wage – but only if the hotels are not unionized.

Los Angeles has 87 hotels with 100 or more rooms, but about 40 percent are unionized. So we’re talking about a little more than 50 hotels that would be affected. Again, labor has targeted a small group to fight in its strategy of incrementalism.

But what’s even more clever is this: There will be a fight, sure, but small hotels and big unionized hotels will be tempted not to join in but to sit down and dummy up. After all, they wouldn’t mind seeing their competitors saddled with much higher labor costs. In the coming fight, labor interests have split their opposition. I mean, how clever is that?

And it was no accident that labor chose the hotel industry as the battleground for its living-wage movement. Why? Because the usual opposition points aren’t as sharp. For example, one standard argument against raising minimum wages is that they’re mostly paid to students with after-school part-time jobs or to entry-level workers who quickly move on. But that’s not so true in the hospitality industry, where many housekeepers and bellhops are full-time career workers who really do depend on their paychecks to support a family.

Another argument against increased wage rates: They force employers to cut jobs, pare down hours and replace workers with automation. But it’s perilous for a hotel, a service business, after all, to cut many hours or positions. As for automation, well, good luck finding robots to make beds and deliver your room-service breakfast.

Oh, one more standard argument against raising wages is that it forces businesses to raise prices for customers. But hotels cater to visitors, so increased prices merely result in outsiders paying more. In fact, that argument gets turned around by pro-labor groups, who can say that it would be good for visitors to pay more; our workers will have more money to spend locally, thereby boosting the L.A. economy.

The best weapon that the hotel industry has to fight this looming battle is the promise made by the city in 2006 not to extend the living wage beyond the Century Boulevard hotels. (Indeed, that is the issue that apparently has held up the introduction of the new ordinance.)

Count on living-wage proponents making the argument that the current City Council cannot be held to promises made by others in the past. The opponents will argue that now-Mayor Eric Garcetti was among the council members who made that promise back then. And besides, the City Council is either an honest broker that keeps its word or it is not.

Despite any dustup over the 2006 promise, the overall strategy of incrementalism is a clever one. Little by little, a wage hike gets imposed on this small group, then that one. Over time, people will get used to it. Businesses will adjust. Eventually, it will be much easier to say, heck, let’s just make the living wage consistent, across the board, same for all.

Given the fact that a similar strategy is playing out in Long Beach, given the fact that labor is tightly allied with politics hereabouts and given the fact that the incremental strategy is effective, a citywide living wage feels inevitable.