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Hotel workers march across LA in ongoing strike for increased wages, benefits

Pictured is the W Los Angeles Hotel in Westwood. Hotel workers across Los Angeles are on strike demanding higher wages and increased contractual benefits. (Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin Staff)

By Sharla Steinman

July 15, 2023 6:33 p.m.

This post was updated July 16 at 5:25 p.m.

Thousands of hotel workers on strike across Los Angeles marched from the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel to the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel on Thursday.

The march follows the hotel worker strike that began July 2 as thousands of hotel workers call for higher wages and increased contractual benefits. Some of their demands include an immediate $5 hourly wage increase and changes in health care, workload and pension that they believe will make their jobs more financially stable, said Maria Hernandez, an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 11.

UNITE HERE Local 11 is a union that represents workers employed in hotels, airports, restaurants, sports arenas and convention centers throughout Southern California and Arizona, according to its website.

Jeymmy Morales, a hotel worker and strike member, said she wants better medical insurance for her family and higher wages to keep up with the rising costs of housing in LA.

She added that she believes her workload has become heavier since the start of the pandemic because some of her former coworkers were fired or laid off.

“The hotels took advantage of the pandemic,” Morales said. “They got rid of some of my coworkers, and now we have to do more work.”

Some workers like Morales have also considered moving out of LA because of the high cost of living. Morales added that it is likely she will move out of the county with her husband to find more affordable housing.

In a UNITE HERE Local 11 survey, 53% of workers said they will move in the near future or have moved in the last five years because of the rising cost of housing.

The Hotel Association of LA negotiated a contract over the last couple of months with UNITE HERE Local 11 leadership, said Peter Hillan, a spokesperson for the Hotel Association of LA. However, the hotel worker contract expired June 30, and negotiations came to a full stop, Hillan said.

“Negotiations were moving at the pace they typically were,” Hillan said. “UNITE HERE basically left the table and has not responded to the last proposal about two weeks ago. Leadership did not show up. … Instead (they) decided to focus on a strike during the peak of summer holidays, and at the time of our large convention, the anime convention in LA.”

Hillan added that since it is peak travel season, hotel workers are missing out on tips and wages because of the strike.

Hotels have also been impacted by short staffing due to the strike. Hillan said that at some hotels, room service may have been curtailed, but for the most part, activities carried on as usual with the assistance of temporary workers.

But some hotel workers on strike have expressed concern as to why their wages were stagnant, considering the hotel can afford to hire workers at the last minute.

“On the one hand, they’re saying they don’t have enough money for us, but on the other, they’re contracting, staffing temporary workers to replace us when we go out,” Morales said.

Hillan said that he feels the strike will make LA as a destination less desirable for vacationers.

“These kinds of union theatrics are going to make it difficult for hospitality around LA to attract the kind of guests that we want,” Hillan said.

The strike has continued for two weeks, and workers have said they’re experiencing medical issues from being in the sun and on their feet all day.

“It’s been very difficult, being outside under the sun, sometimes hungry, sometimes with a headache,” said Victoria Santos, a hotel worker and strike member. “In some ways, it’s been worse being outside than being inside working.”

Although no contract has been fully negotiated, hotel workers are confident they will get their asks, Morales and Santos said.

“Things will change,” Morales said. “I have faith that things will improve.”

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Sharla Steinman | City and Crime Editor
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
Steinman is the 2023-2024 city and crime editor. She was previously a city and crime contributor. She is also a fourth-year political science student.
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