The Unite Here Local 11 labor union representing 15,000 workers at 65 hotels in Los Angeles County and Orange County began their month-long planned strike on Sunday, walking out at the beginning of the busy July summer tourism season in Southern California.
For months, negotiations between the Unite Here union and the hotels, which include Marriott International, Hyatt, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts, have been ongoing, with both sides having hoped to get a new contract by June 30th, the date of which the contract would end. However, neither side budged much.
The union pushed for a $5 per hour wage increase across the board for all non-management hotel workers, with an additional $3 boost each coming year for the next 3 years, for a total of a $14 raise to combat the increased cost of living and to protect the firing of workers. Also demanded was a better healthcare and pension program as well as for hotels stop using the e-verify system to check on work eligibility, as the union said that it would only weed out immigrant workers. However, the hotels countered with a $2.50 per hour wage increase instead.
With a such a large gap, Unite Here got serious about a potential strike in early June, with members voting 96% to 4% to authorize a strike if necessary. The number of protests also increased, with one large demonstration outside of Los Angeles International Airport resulting in nearly 200 arrests, including Los Angeles City Councilmembers Nithya Raman and Hugo Soto-Martinez, as well as Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles). However, the demonstrations made many in LA County and Orange County angry what they were doing, reducing sympathy for the strike. Despite this, with no deal in place by Friday, the union decided on Saturday to begin the strike in earnest on Sunday – right in the middle of the long July 4th weekend.
“Our members were devastated first by the pandemic, and now by the greed of their bosses,” said Unite Here Local 11 President Kurt Petersen on Sunday. “The industry got bailouts while we got cuts. Now, the hotel negotiators decided to take a four-day holiday instead of negotiating. Shameful.”
“Hotel workers who work in the booming Los Angeles’ tourism industry must be able to live in Los Angeles. The 96% support in favor of strike in a vote earlier this month sends a clear message to the industry that workers have reached their limit and are prepared to strike to secure a living wage.”
Union spokeswoman Maria Hernandez added, “Workers are ready to strike until they get what they are asking for. Workers won’t take anything less than that.”
— UNITE HERE Local 11 (@UNITEHERE11) July 3, 2023
Unite Here refuses to negotiate
However, the hotel group retorted that Unite Here was unwilling to negotiate and has not offered any new figures since their opening new wage demand.
“Unite Here Local 11 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,” said the hotels during the weekend. “From the outset, the Union has shown no desire to engage in productive, good faith negotiations with this group.”
“The hotels want to continue to provide strong wages, affordable quality family healthcare and a pension. The Union should accept our offer to return to the bargaining table immediately and work with us to reach agreement on a new contract that would benefit our employees and the City and County of Los Angeles and Orange County.”
One of the attorney’s for the hotel group, Keith Grossman, also noted, “The work stoppage was expected. We are fully prepared to continue to operate these hotels and to take care of our guests as long as this disruption lasts. We also remain available to meet with the union whenever its leaders decide to make themselves available to resume negotiations.”
Experts told the Globe on Monday that both sides needed to start negotiating in earnest again, as a longer strike would only hurt both sides more, including possible staff reductions as a result of missed business during a high volume time of the year.
“Both sides in the LA hotel strike have points, but the fact that the workers just aren’t even trying to negotiate and are just expecting hotel management to comply with everything is outrageous,” explained Corey Fletcher, a former hotel worker negotiator, to the Globe on Monday. “I mean, with the WGA, it is a long and tedious process, but even both sides in the Hollywood writers strike are going back and forth. There’s even been some power moves, like writers halting major productions, and executives taking vacations and calling the WGA out in posts. But through all that they’re still working on it.
“With this strike with Unite Here, they aren’t negotiating. The managers have, and were only told no to their offer without a counter. This does happen sometimes, but it’s usually the company or the managers strongarming the workers, and that usually isn’t a good public look. And that would explain, at least partially, why the public isn’t really going behind them. They’re disrupting the lives of average citizens, they’ve caused huge traffic snarls, and now they are just refusing to even work put a figure.
“The big thing is, like the hotels said, they can continue operating just fine. Lots of people crossed that line. A lot of people who just came to this country need jobs and don’t care about unions. The workers can’t hang work disruption over them outside of picket lines and, in turn, annoying more people. They need to negotiate for sure, for their own sake.”
As of Monday, no new agreement has been reached between both sides.
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