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Hotel workers launch strike for higher wages, health care


Also request retirement benefits

Workers at dozens of major Southland hotels went on strike last weekend, forming picket lines at many of the businesses in an effort to secure higher pay and improvements in health care and retirement benefits.

“BREAKING: Southern California hotel workers are ON STRIKE! Thousands walked off the job at properties across DTLA & Santa Monica. Dozens more properties remain without a Union contract,’’ Unite Here Local 11 tweeted at 6:01 a.m. Sunday, the first day of the strike.

That tweet was followed by several more that showed workers picketing Sunday morning at sites including the InterContinental in downtown Los Angeles, JW Marriott LA Live, Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Hotel Figueroa, Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica, Viceroy Santa Monica, Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Sheraton Universal Hotel, DoubleTree Los Angeles and Laguna Cliffs in Dana Point.

The union, which represents up to 15,000 workers employed at 65 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties, had said Friday in an Instagram post that its members “could strike at any moment’’ during the Fourth of July weekend.

The contract between the hotels and Unite Here Local 11 expired at 12:01 a.m. July 1 although the union reached a deal Wednesday night with the largest of its employers, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown L.A.

Contract agreements are unresolved with the remaining hotels.

Hotel officials have told reporters their facilities will remain open with management and other nonunion staff filling in if the union strike materializes.

On June 8, 96% of the union's members approved a strike authorization that could result in one of the nation's largest hotel worker strikes.

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.

The workers include thousands of cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellhops and front desk agents.

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.

The union is also seeking to create a hospitality workforce housing fund. Many union members say they're now commuting hours from areas like Apple Valley, Palmdale, California City and Victorville.

“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.’’