THE ANGELS –
Workers picketed major Southern California hotels again Monday after walking off the job over July 4 weekend to demand better wages and benefits.
The strike by bellhops, receptionists, room attendants, cooks, servers and dishwashers began early Sunday in Los Angeles and Orange counties just as summer tourism is picking up. The employers accused the union of not bargaining.
Unite Here Local 11 members voted last month to authorize the strike. In addition to higher wages, the union wants better health care benefits, higher pension contributions and less strenuous workloads.
The contracts expired at midnight Friday at more than 60 hotels, including properties owned by major chains such as Marriott and Hilton. The strike affects about half of the 32,000 hospitality workers the union represents in southern California and Arizona.
Osiris Gaona, a telephone operator at InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, joined the picket line with her husband, 15-year-old son and 7-year-old granddaughter. They will march again on Tuesday, July 4, she said.
“We hope to send a message to the owners of all the hotels,” Gaona said. “We are asking for a raise because it costs a lot to live here in California, especially in Los Angeles.”
The strike comes amid Christmas celebrations and a major anime convention in Los Angeles. The union, on its website, urged guests “not to eat, sleep or gather” at the striking hotels to support the workers. But it was not immediately clear if the strike resulted in guests checking out early or lacking services.
It’s the latest action by a restive labor movement in California.
Hollywood writers have been on strike since early May. In March, bus drivers, janitors and other support staff shut down the gigantic Los Angeles Unified School District for three days. Los Angeles teachers supported that strike and later settled their own contract without withdrawing. Oakland teachers went on strike for more than a week and delays occurred at the big ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach before dockworkers on the West Coast reached a tentative deal in June. Actors can also go on strike.
The rising cost of living in the Los Angeles metropolitan area is a major problem for hotel workers, according to the union.
Last week, an agreement was reached with his main employer, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles, which has more than 600 union workers. Union officials described the tentative agreement, which provides for higher wages and increased staffing levels, as a huge victory for workers.
Talks with other hotels, including the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons Regent Beverly Wilshire and the Anaheim Hilton near Disneyland, were stalled. A coalition of more than 40 hotels involved in the talks accused union leaders of canceling a scheduled bargaining session and refusing to come to the table. Hotels have offered wage increases of $2.50 an hour for the first 12 months and $6.25 for four years, the group said.
“From the outset, the Union has shown no desire to engage in good faith and productive negotiations with this group,” the hotel coalition said in a statement Sunday. “The Union has not budged from its opening demand two months ago for a pay increase of up to 40 percent and a more than 28 percent increase in benefit costs.”
The work stoppage had been anticipated and the properties are “fully prepared to continue to operate these hotels and take care of our guests for the duration of this disruption,” said Keith Grossman, spokesman for the coalition.
Associated Press writers John Antczak and Christopher Weber contributed.