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Striking hotel workers reach tentative contract with Biltmore Hotel

Days before it marks its 100th anniversary, the Millennium Biltmore hotel reached a tentative labor agreement with striking hospitality workers, their union announced Friday, becoming the second major Los Angeles hotel to strike a contract deal.

According to the Unite Here Local 11 union, the tentative labor deal affects 300 workers at the historic downtown hotel, which opened its doors on Oct. 1, 1923.

"We applaud the Biltmore Los Angeles for putting their workers and our city first," Kurt Petersen, union co-president, said in a statement. "L.A. is the world's most important tourist destination, with the World Cup and Olympics coming back to back in 2026 and 2028. This agreement takes steps to ensure that workers who work in LA will be able to live in L.A."

The union previously reached a labor deal with the operators of the Westin Bonaventure hotel downtown. Strikes are continuing against other hotels across the region. The union has held waves of picketing in various areas, most recently in the Santa Monica area, with boisterous -- and loud -- early morning rallies outside hotel properties.

According to the union, the tentative deal with the Biltmore includes "unprecedented wage increases," affordable family health care coverage for workers, "humane workloads and safe staffing," along with increases in pensions and "equal justice" language providing access to union jobs for formerly incarcerated people.

"We are very pleased to have come to an agreement with Unite Here Local 11 on behalf of our loyal and dedicated employees," Biltmore General Manager Jimmy Wu said in a statement released by the union. "We can now focus together on looking after our guests and providing the level of service our guests have come to expect from the Biltmore Los Angeles."

On June 8, 96% of the union's members approved a strike authorization. Union officials said a recent survey of its members showed that 53% said they have moved in the past five years or will move in the near future because of soaring housing costs in the Los Angeles area.

Union officials said their members earn $20 to $25 an hour. Negotiators are asking for an immediate $5 an hour raise and an additional $3 an hour in subsequent years of the contract along with improvements in health care and retirement benefits.

Members of the Unite Here Local 11 union initially walked off the job on July 2, continuing their picketing through the Fourth of July holiday.

The workers represented by the union include cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front desk agents.

Representatives for the Coordinated Bargaining Group representing local hotels have accused the union of being inflexible in its demands.

The union "has not budged from its opening demand two months ago of up to a 40% wage increase and an over 28% increase in benefit costs. From the outset, the union has shown no desire to engage in productive, good faith negotiations with this group," the reps said in a previous statement.

Attorney Keith Grossman of Hirschfeld Kraemer, one of two firms representing the hotel coalition, told the Los Angeles Times previously that employers have offered raises of $2.50 an hour in the first 12 months and $6.25 over four years. He said housekeepers at unionized hotels in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles, who currently make $25 per hour, would get a 10% wage increase in 2024 and make more than $31 per hour by January 2027.

The workers are on strike "because the union is determined to have one," Grossman said.

Unite Here Local 11 represents up to 15,000 workers employed at about 60 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

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