Hospitality workers across Southern California made good on their threat to strike over the holiday weekend, with thousands of cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front-desk agents staging a walkout starting July 1.
According to Unite Here Local 11, which represents more than 32,000 hospitality workers throughout Southern California and Arizona, the move is the largest multi-hotel strike in the labor union’s history.
An overwhelming majority of the organization’s members voted in favor of a work stoppage last month after union reps reported that negotiations with hotel employers — including Hyatt, Hilton, Highgate, Accor, IHG and Marriott — had hit a dead end, with the union accusing hotel management of being nonresponsive.
Unite Here Local 11’s demands have included an immediate $5-per-hour wage increase as well as access to better healthcare, a secure pension plan and “a safe and humane” workload.
Since Saturday, a number of Los Angeles-area hotels have been impacted by picket lines, including the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live, the Biltmore Los Angeles, Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica, Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Hotel Figueroa, Sheraton Grand Los Angeles and Downtown LA Proper Hotel.
A running list of hotels with active strikes is available via Unite Here Local 11’s Twitter.
According to the union, Los Angeles’ largest hotel — the 1,358-room Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites — had reached a deal with its 600 workers before the strike, promising “unprecedented wage increases,” enhanced family healthcare, improved staffing levels, pension contribution increases and other benefits.
“This agreement takes steps ensuring that workers who work in L.A. will be able to live in L.A.” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11. “Now the rest of the industry needs to step up.”
On Wednesday, Unite Here Local 11 released a “SoCal travel alert,” warning travelers and the trade that picket lines would pick up following the holiday weekend.
“This walkout was the first of many actions that may come this summer by workers at hotels across Southern California, and it is only one tool in our toolbox,” said Petersen.
Pete Hillan, a spokesperson for the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, said that the strike was “disruptive” over the Fourth of July weekend, adding that the strike “gives L.A. a black eye as a place that people want to come visit.”
Hillan estimates that around 15 to 18 hotels throughout the greater Los Angeles area have been impacted over the last few days, but that those hotels have been able to “continue providing services that guests are expecting,” thanks to their contingency plans. Those plans have included bringing in staff from other hotels as well as tapping management to fill some frontline roles.
According to Hillan, a bargaining group representing just over 40 hotels “provided a strong offer” to Unite Here Local 11 several weeks ago, but they said union leadership didn’t show up to negotiating sessions last week.
“At this point, we need them to come back to the table in a serious fashion,” said Hillan. “But as far as our guests go, we have the staffing to provide all the services that our summer travelers are expecting.”
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