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Hotel workers walk off jobs again in ‘phase two’


Latest in series of Southland worker strikes

After a nearly weeklong pause in picketing, hundreds of Southland hospitality workers walked off the job again this week in what their union billed as the second wave of a strike called in hopes of securing higher wages and improved benefits.

The workers, including cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front desk agents, walked a picket line Monday morning at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel on Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport.

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. That picketing targeted 21 hotels involved in contract negotiations with the union.

Those workers, however, returned to work on July 5, with union officials saying at the time it didn't mean an end to all picketing. The union warned that more walkouts could occur at any time.

“No worker should have to sleep in their car between shifts because they cannot afford to live in Los Angeles,'' union Co-President Kurt Petersen said in a statement Monday. “Workers are striking because they believe that all workers in this city -- whether you teach, write, act, or clean hotel rooms -- deserve a wage that allows them to live with dignity in Los Angeles. The hotel industry is flush with cash. Room rates are soaring. The industry's greed makes workers unable to live in the city where they work.''

The contract between the hotels and the union expired at 12:01 a.m. July 1, although the union previously reached a deal with the largest of its employers, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles. Contract agreements are unresolved with the remaining hotels.

Officials have said the hotels will remain open with management and other non-union staff filling in.

There has been no word of any renewed contract talks between the union and the Coordinated Bargaining Group negotiating on behalf of the hotels.

Representatives for the hotels accused workers of being inflexible in their 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 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.

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.

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.