Thousands of L.A. Hotel Workers are Striking Again

REUTERS/David Swanson/File Photo
People protest in front of InterContinental Hotel as unionized hotel workers in Los Angeles and Orange County go on strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 2, 2023.

Several thousand hotel workers in Los Angeles walked off the job Monday morning over wages and staffing levels in the latest escalation of a heated labor dispute in the region.

The strikes are affecting major hotels near Los Angeles International Airport, disrupting businesses and domestic and international travelers during the peak of summer.

Wages in high-cost Southern California are a key point of contention between hotels and Unite Here Local 11, the union representing hospitality workers. Workers say they are commuting from hours away because they cannot afford to live where they work. They are seeking an immediate $5-an-hour raise, followed by additional increases.

“Personally, I’m on strike because I can’t pay the rent. Food is too expensive,” said Lilia Sotelo, a housekeeper at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel, who makes $19.80 an hour and pays $1,800 a month for a two-bedroom in the suburb of Hawthorne. “Our quality of life has fallen since the pandemic.”

Last week, thousands of hotel workers, also represented by Local 11, went on strike for three days at 21 hotels in downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica, Calif., affecting the busy July Fourth holiday weekend and a massive anime convention that drew tens of thousands.

The Coordinated Bargaining Group, which represents the Los Angeles-area hotels involved in negotiations, said in a statement that it has offered to resume bargaining with the union by suggesting potential meeting dates, but that the union has failed to respond.

” Unite Here Local 11’s intransigence and unwillingness to meet is hurting our employees and continues to damage Los Angeles’ reputation with tourists,” Keith Grossman, spokesperson for the group, said.

Hotel workers are also striking at the Holiday Inn, Fairfield Inn, Aloft, Four Points Sheraton, Hotel June and the Westin near the international airport.

At the end of June, union contracts expired for 60 Southern California hotels, representing 15,000 hospitality workers in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Only the Westin Bonaventure, the largest hotel in Los Angeles by number of rooms, has reached a tentative deal on a new contract.

In addition to wage increases, the union is demanding guaranteed staffing levels, automatic digital tipping and the continuation of its strong health insurance plan and pension program.

The Coordinated Bargaining Group, said last week that the union broke the law by going on strike over demands that could harm the city’s tourism industry and “had nothing to do with our employees.”

As examples, the group said the union had insisted that hotels agree to support a Los Angeles ballot measure to house the homeless alongside hotel guests and impose a 7 percent tax on guests at union hotels. The group has filed federal charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

Kurt Petersen, co-president of Local 11, said the union stands by its hotel tax request and that the bargaining group had mischaracterized the ballot measure that workers are asking hotel management to support, which “prioritizes building affordable housing over luxury hotels.”

The union did not say how long the strike would last.