Southern California hotel workers stage walkout before Independence Day holiday

The Ritz-Carlton in Los Angeles, California, US, 24 February 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE / DAVID SWANSON

Thousands of hotel workers in Southern California went on strike Sunday morning, days after contracts with employers expired and employee demands went unresolved. 

The walkout occurred at major hotels in Los Angeles and across the southern part of the state, including the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton in downtown LA, during one of the busiest weekends for travel in the US.

Unite Here Local 11, a union that represents over 32,000 workers in Southern California and Arizona, said it’s seeking a hospitality workforce housing fund to accommodate for rising living costs, as well as increased benefits and wages.

“We are fully prepared to continue to operate these hotels and to take care of our guests as long as this disruption lasts,” Keith Grossman, who represents the coordinated bargaining group of over 40 local hotels, said in a statement. “This activity was expected.”

Southern California has been a hotbed for labour actions in recent months as workers press for better wages and benefits, from Hollywood writers walking out on their jobs to screen actors disagreeing on studio contracts. Wins for dockworkers, who last month reached a tentative agreement at all 29 West Coast ports, and LA school district employees, have been kindling for locals advocating improved labour conditions.

“People believe, after seeing the teachers win, after seeing the dockworkers win, that they too can win, so that everyone who works in Los Angeles can afford to live in Los Angeles,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, said in an interview.

The hotel workers union secured a deal with the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites, the largest hotel in Los Angeles, a day before the contract expired. Meanwhile, other workers and hotels have yet to finalise their agreements. The collective bargaining group remains available to meet with the union whenever leaders make themselves available, Grossman said.

“We want humane workloads,” Petersen said. “We want the jobs to look like they did before the pandemic.”


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