labor Los Angeles Hotel Workers Go on Strike
Thousands of hotel workers in Southern California walked off the job on Sunday demanding higher pay and better benefits, just as hordes of tourists descended on the region for the Fourth of July holiday.
“Workers have been pent up and frustrated and angry about what’s happened during the pandemic combined with the inability to pay their rent and stay in Los Angeles,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, the union representing the workers. “So people feel liberated, it’s Fourth of July, freedom is reigning in Los Angeles and hotel workers are leading that fight.”
Representatives for the hotels have said that the union had not been bargaining in good faith, and that leaders were determined to disrupt operations.
“The hotels want to continue to provide strong wages, affordable quality family health care and a pension,” Keith Grossman, a spokesman for the coordinated bargaining group consisting of more than 40 Los Angeles and Orange County hotels, said in a statement.
The strike is part of a wave of recent labor actions in the nation’s second-largest metropolis, where high costs of living have made it difficult for many workers — from housekeepers to Hollywood writers — to stay afloat.
Why It Matters
Workers across Southern California in a range of industries have threatened to strike or walked off the job in recent months, displaying unusual levels of solidarity with other unions as they push for higher pay and better working conditions.
Dockworkers disrupted operations for weeks at the colossal ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach until they reached a tentative deal in June. And screenwriters have been picketing outside the gates of Hollywood studios for about two months.
Hugo Soto-Martinez, a Los Angeles City Council member who worked as an organizer for Unite Here Local 11, said that the breadth of industries locked in labor fights demonstrated frustration especially among younger workers, who have seen inequality widen and opportunities evaporate.
“It’s homelessness, it’s the cost of housing,” he said. “I think people are understanding those issues in a much more palpable way.”
The hotel workers’ strike comes just as the summer tourism season ramps up, and labor leaders say they are hoping to capitalize on that momentum.
Last year, tourism in the city reached its highest levels since the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. Roughly 46 million people visited, and there was $34.5 billion in total business sales in 2022, reaching 91 percent of the record set in 2019.
But for many workers like Diana Rios-Sanchez, who works as a housekeeping supervisor at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, the pay has not helped to keep up with inflation.
She often wonders how long she and her three children, who live in a one-bedroom apartment in El Sereno, a neighborhood on the Eastside of Los Angeles, can afford to stay in the city.
“All we do in hotels is work and work and get by with very little,” Ms. Rios-Sanchez said. “We take care of the tourists, but no one takes care of us.”
Business groups say that simply demanding that employers pay workers more does not address the much-deeper problems that have led to sky-high costs of living in California.
The union has been negotiating since April for a new contract. In June, members approved a strike.
The group has asked that hourly wages, now $20 and $25 for housekeepers, immediately increase by $5, followed by $3 bumps in each subsequent year of a three-year contract.
By contrast, Mr. Grossman said in the statement that the hotels had offered to increase pay for housekeepers currently making $25 an hour in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles to more than $31 per hour by January 2027.
On Thursday, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, a large hotel in downtown Los Angeles, announced that it had staved off a walkout of its workers with a contract deal.
Agreements made this year will set pay levels ahead of the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics, which are expected to be enormous tourist draws to the region.
Mr. Petersen said on Sunday that the strike would go on for “multiple days.” The Hotel Association of Los Angeles had said in a statement that the hotels would be able to continue serving visitors.