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Workers at major hotels in Southern California begin strike over holiday weekend


By Chris Isidore, CNN

New York (CNN) — A union representing 15,000 workers at 65 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties followed through with their planned strike Sunday morning, according to a spokesperson for Unite Here Local 11, the union representing the workers, in a push for significantly improved wages.

Workers at hotels including downtown Los Angeles’ JW Marriott LA Live and Millennium Biltmore, as well as the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica and the Sheraton Universal Hotel all walked off the job Sunday morning, union spokesperson Diana Hussein told CNN.

The union is pushing for significantly improved wages. As of Sunday morning, they intend to stay on strike “however long it takes,” the spokesperson told CNN in a text message. The current labor contract expired at 12:01 am PDT Saturday.

Among the affected hotels are the Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott LA Live, Beverly Hilton, Fairmont Miramar, Anaheim Hilton, and Four Seasons Regent Beverly Wilshire, the setting for the movie “Pretty Woman.”

A person familiar with management plans said the hotels expect to stay open even if there was a strike, using management staff and workers from other nonunion properties to fill in.

They are also expecting many of the strikers to return to work on Monday, when they will be eligible for a holiday pay premium, and for the union to then stage spot strikes at different hotels going forward.

In 2023, hotel profits in Los Angeles and Orange County exceeded pre-pandemic levels according to Unite Here Local 11. But the union said hospitality workers continue to struggle to afford a place to live in the cities where they work. The union said in a survey of members, 53% said that they either have moved in the past five years or will move in the near future because of soaring housing costs.

Hotel workers priced out of LA

“Hotel workers who work in the booming Los Angeles’ tourism industry must be able to live in Los Angeles,” said union Co-President Kurt Petersen. He said the 96% support in favor a 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.”

The union said workers are paid between $20 to $25 an hour and the union is demanding an immediate $5 an hour wage increase, which would represent an immediate 20% to 25% raise. It also wants $3 an hour wage increases in subsequent years of the contract, as well as improved health care and retirement benefits.

One hotel, the Westin Bonaventure hotel, has already reached a tentative labor deal with the union and will not be struck. But there is a management group, the Coordinated Bargaining Group, which is negotiating on behalf of 44 of the 65 unionized hotels which are on strike. The other 21 hotels basically follow the contracts that are reached at the other 44 hotels.

Management had offered a $2.50 an hour raise, it said, which would represent a 10% wage increase for most workers, and a total of $6.25 an hour more over the four years of the proposed contract.

Short-term strikes

“If there is a strike, it will occur because the union is determined to have one,” said management. “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.”

Short-term strikes, rather than open-ended strikes that continue until a labor dispute is concluded, are an increasing common tactic being used by unions. With lower-paid workers who might not be able to miss working and being paid for an extended period, the limited-duration strikes can be effective. The union would not confirm plans to have strikers return to work on Monday.

“Workers are ready to strike until they get what they are asking for,” said union spokesperson Maria Hernandez.

Besides the increased bookings that might come from this being a four-day holiday weekend, the strike comes at a time of a major convention being held in the city, the Los Angeles Anime Expo, which is already sold out.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Camila Bernal and Keith Allen contributed to this story.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Business/Consumer

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