Thousands of hotel workers strike in Los Angeles

This fourth of July weekend—a major time for the hospitality industry in the US—hotel workers have walked off the job in one of the nation’s most visited cities

July 03, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Thousands walked off the job at properties across DTLA & Santa Monica. Photo: Unite Here 11

On July 2, thousands of Los Angeles hotel workers, including cooks, housekeepers, bellmen, and front desk agents walked off the job to demand higher wages, affordable housing, better benefits, and safer workloads. Striking hotel workers are organized by UNITE HERE Local 11. This work stoppage is the “largest multi-hotel strike in the local’s history,” according to the union.

This strike follows a massive civil disobedience action, organized by the union, in which over 200 workers, activists, and elected officials were arrested on June 22. Hotel workers are largely unable to afford to live where they work due to low wages and high housing costs. And despite the fact that hotel profits in 2023 are now exceeding pre-pandemic levels, hotel bosses were unwilling to deliver on fair wage increase demands, according to Local 11.

A statement released by hotel bosses (calling themselves the Coordinated Bargaining Group) claims that they proposed wage increases of USD 2.5 per hour in the first year of the new contract, rising to a USD 6.25 hourly increase in the following four years. Union workers are demanding an immediate increase of USD 5 per hour, followed by increases of USD 3 per hour each subsequent year of a three-year contract.

The Coordinated Bargaining Group claims that the union “has shown no desire to engage in productive, good faith negotiations with this group.”

“Our members were devastated first by the pandemic, and now by the greed of their bosses,” says Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “The industry got bailouts while we got cuts. Now, the hotel negotiators decided to take a four-day holiday instead of negotiating. Shameful.”

The Local 11 struggle is happening in the context of the larger struggle to raise the minimum wage for service workers, in Los Angeles and nationwide. Next year, Californians will vote on an initiative that will raise the minimum wage to USD 18 per hour, and the LA City Council is weighing a plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to USD 25 per hour.

Writers on strike, organized by the Writers Guild of America, have been stopping by Local 11 pickets in solidarity.