June 13, 2024

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Los Angeles hotel workers strike disrupts weekend

Los Angeles hotel workers strike disrupts weekend

Inside the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, a high-rise luxury hotel with a rooftop pool and towering views of the city, Jason Hernandez said Monday that things seem normal. The housekeeper had cleaned his room. The lobby was tidy, if a little quiet.

It wasn’t until he walked out and ran into metal security barriers in front of the hotel doors and dozens of people walked in, chanting and drumming that it was clear his vacation plans had been upended by a massive strike by thousands of hotel workers.

Nearly 15,000 housekeepers, cooks and front desk employees across the region quit their jobs over the weekend, demanding higher wages and better benefits. The strike, which began on Sunday, coincided with a long July Fourth weekend, when thousands of visitors turned up for conventions, weddings and parties.

“Inside, you’re kind of forgetful,” said Mr. Hernandez, 26, who was in town for Anime Expo, a celebration of Japanese animation, and dressed as a League of Legends character with a long brown cloth with a blue gem on it. brow. “And then he’s like, ‘Oh my God, all these crazy things are happening.'”

Although Mr. Hernandez and his friends decided to splurge on a hotel room for the show, which has drawn tens of thousands of fans to downtown Los Angeles, he said he wasn’t fazed by the fuss.

“I’m for the cause, so I don’t mind it at all,” said Mr. Hernandez, a public school teacher from Orange County, south of Los Angeles. “It’s hard to live, just in general. Everything goes up.”

It’s a viewpoint that the union leaders representing the workers, Unite Here Local 11, are believed to resonate widely — even among hotel guests and vacationers — in an area where workers say wages have not kept up with rents or prices for gas and groceries. .

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“The support in the community is tremendous,” said Kurt Petersen, co-chair of the union. “The workers who make their living wages will make this city better.”

Outside several large downtown hotels on Monday morning, crowds of workers in red T-shirts reading “En Huelga” or “On Strike” mingled with groups of convention attendees in an assortment of colorful wigs, mini-dresses, or witches’ robes.

Oscar Orellana, 30, pulled over in the shadow of the Intercontinental and waved again at one of the drivers who had been shot as he drove by.

For six years, Mr. Orellana worked in the hotel’s housekeeping department, ensuring that linens were stocked on each floor. His parents also worked for a long time in hotel room service; He said his father was staying at a hotel near the Ritz-Carlton.

He said, “I used to see my parents, and they loved their work, which made me want to go into the hotel world, and I love my job.” But his three-hour round trip from Long Beach, roughly 25 miles away, combined with his heavy workload and inability to afford an occasional treat for his 4-year-old made it impossible for us to be there working. – That’s why we’re here on strike,” he said.

To the west, at the upscale Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, dozens of workers pick waffles outside the manicured floral hedges that line the property. A few guests said the hotel generally seemed to run well, but were frustrated by minor inconveniences – such as a lack of clean towels – at such an expensive property. They also felt stuck in an awkward social situation during a time when they just wanted to relax.

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“I’m a union worker, so I can sympathize if they don’t get fair wages,” said John Smith, 38, who was visiting with his wife from San Bernardino.

But, he added, “we try to enjoy the vacation — I took two days off for that.”

Just outside the property, on a street corner, the bride and groom took pictures with their arms around each other. Within yards of them, striking workers dressed in bright red could be seen marching and waving signs over their heads.

Hotel management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Most hotels have contingency staffing plans in place and expect to be able to serve guests largely without interruption, said Pete Helan, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Hotel Association. He added that large hotel chains, for example, had brought in staff from other properties not affected by the strike or asked managers to step in.

In the long run, a high-profile strike on a major weekend could dent Los Angeles’ reputation as a destination for convention planners, business travelers and tourists, he said.

“Why do they come to Los Angeles?” Asked. People vote with their feet.

The hotel workers’ strike is just the latest high-profile union action amid what California leaders have called a “hot summer of work,” as struggles to afford the high cost of living have led to extraordinary levels of solidarity among workers in disparate industries, from public school aides to laborers. Pavement to Hollywood Screenwriters.

Cast members and nurses have appeared in picket lines outside Hollywood studios, where screenwriters have been on strike since May. This week, the leaders of the Writers Guild of America, the union that represents screenwriters, Hotel workers joined in their protest.

Elected officials in Los Angeles — a Democratic stronghold where labor unions have amassed significant political power for decades — have also been eager to show their support for striking workers.

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actor Adam Schiff, D-Calif Sit-in Sunday alongside workers at a hotel near Universal Studios Hollywood.

“They should be able to make a decent living, decent wages,” Schiff told reporters. “I am proud to be here and stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters in labor.”

The union required that hourly wages, now $20 and $25 for a housekeeper, go up by $5, followed by a $3 increase in each subsequent year of a three-year contract.

Hotel industry officials said many of the union’s other demands—including surcharges for guests at unionized hotels that would go to the workers’ housing fund—were attempts to burden hotel operators with the costs of the area’s housing crisis.

Keith Grossman, a spokesman for a group of more than 40 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties negotiating with the union, said, “Based on the union’s actions, it is clear that the union is not focused on the interests of our employees and those of its members and is instead focused on its own political agenda.”

Mr. Grossman said hotels have offered to raise salaries for housekeepers making $25 an hour in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles to more than $31 an hour by January 2027.

With the country heading into a frantic summer travel season, union leaders refused to speculate on whether the strike would last for days, weeks or months. But they said the workers would continue to protest until contractual deals were struck.

Curtis Lee Contribute to the preparation of reports.