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Thousands of SoCal hotel workers strike in effort to secure better pay, benefits

Hotel worker strike set to continue through Fourth of July holiday
Hotel worker strike set to continue through Fourth of July holiday 02:41

Thousands of hospitality workers at dozens of Southland hotels went on strike on Sunday, forming picket lines at many of the businesses in an effort to secure higher pay and improvements in health care and retirement benefits. The strike continued Monday morning.

"This morning, thousands of cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, delivery men, bell men, and front desk agents at multiple properties walked out on the largest multi-hotel strike in the Local's history," said a UNITE HERE, Local 11 Union representative in a statement.

The union, which represents 15,000 workers at 65 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, has been trying to negotiate a new contract since April. Other hotel officials say non-union staff will fill in to keep their facilities running. Those striking include chefs, housekeepers, and other workers with UNITE HERE, Local 11 Union. 

The strike includes workers at esteemed Southland hotels like the InterContinental in downtown LA, the JW Marriott LA Live, Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Hotel Figueroa, La Meridien JW Delfina Santa Monica, Viceroy Santa Monica, Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Sheraton Universal Hotel, Double Tree Los Angeles and the Laguna Cliffs hotel in Dana Point.

"We are aware that some of the associates at several downtown and Westside hotels are engaging in a work stoppage. This activity was expected. We are fully prepared to continue to operate these hotels and to take care of our guests as long as this disruption last. We also remain available to meet with the union whenever its leaders decide to make themselves available to resume negotiations," said Keith Grossman & Ken Ballard, on behalf of the Coordinated Bargaining Group consisting of 44 LA and Orange County Hotels, in a statement.

The contract between workers and hotels officially expired at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, despite the union reaching a deal on Wednesday night with one of the region's largest employers, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown LA. 

According to the Coordinated Bargaining Group, it has been bargaining with UNITE HERE, Local 11 over the past several weeks on a new labor agreement to replace the current agreement that expires on June 30.  

An overwhelming 96% of union members approved a strike authorization on June 8.

Union officials say that numbers reflected in a recent survey of members details that more than 50% have moved in the past five years or plan on moving in the near future because of the soaring housing costs in Los Angeles and the surrounding area. They feel that the current rate of pay is far from enough to live, as most members currently earn between $20 and $25 an hour. 

Negotiators are working to secure for an immediate $5 hourly raise with an additional $3 an hour in subsequent years, along with improvements in health care and retirement benefits.

Additionally, the union is seeking to create a hospitality workforce housing fund. 

"Our members were devastated first by the pandemic, and now by the greed of their bosses," Unite Here Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen said in a statement put out by the union. "The industry got bailouts while we got cuts. Now, the hotel negotiators decided to take a four-day holiday instead of negotiating. Shameful."

Though they represent more than 60 hotels, the Coordinated Bargaining Group was most recently negotiating on behalf of 44 of the other unionized hotels. The other 21 hotels would adhere to whatever agreement was reached. 

As it stands, representatives for the hotels say that workers and the union have been inflexible in their demands, saying that they have "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," in a statement provided to the Los Angeles Times

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