Thousands of Southern California hotel workers go on strike

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Thousands of hotel workers in Southern California laid off Sunday in search of higher pay and better benefits. The strike, which unions have called the biggest strike in history.

Cooks, housekeepers, dishwashers, waitstaff, hotel bellmen and front desk personnel were picketing outside major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange County just as summer tourism surged.

Last month, Unite Here Local 11 members voted 96% to approve the strike. Unions are calling for higher wages, better health care benefits, higher pension contributions and a lighter burden.

Additionally, the union wants to create a “Hospitality Workers Housing Fund” to help workers cope with the rising cost of living in metropolitan Los Angeles. Many employees report a long commute because they can’t afford to live close to work.

“Union members were devastated first by the pandemic and then by the greed of their bosses,” union co-chair Kurt Petersen said in a statement. “The industry got bailouts, we got cuts.”

Contracts expired late Friday night at more than 60 hotels, including those owned by big chains such as Marriott and Hilton. The strike will affect about half of the 32,000 service industry workers in Southern California and Arizona the union represents.

Last week, it reached an agreement with its biggest employer, The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel has more than 600 union members. Union officials said the interim deal, which would bring higher wages and better staffing levels, was a big win for workers.

Negotiations with other hotels had stalled. A coalition of more than 40 hotels participating in the negotiations canceled a scheduled negotiating session and accused union leaders of refusing to come to the negotiating table. The group said the hotel offered a pay raise of $2.50 an hour for the first 12 months and $6.25 over four years.

“From the beginning, the union has shown no willingness to engage in productive and good faith negotiations with this group,” the hotel union said in a statement on Sunday. “The union has not deviated from its initial demands two months ago for wage increases of up to 40% and benefits increases of more than 28%.”

The shutdown was expected and accommodations “stand ready to keep their hotels open and considerate of our guests as long as this disruption continues,” said Keith Grossman, spokesman for the coalition. . Thousands of Southern California hotel workers go on strike

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