THE 2023 CONTRACT FIGHT
Since the pandemic, the region’s largest economic engine, the tourism industry, is celebrating record profits while hospitality workers are overworked, fighting to stay housed and alive. In 2023, workers have the opportunity to reclaim the right to live and work in their community.
UNITE HERE Local 11 has lined up over 100 contracts to expire this year, with the goal to lift the low standards of service workers, as the city of Los Angeles prepares for the World Cup (2026) and the Olympics (2028). We are ready to welcome millions to the region, and we intend to seize the moment to ensure our place in the economic boom headed our way.
Los Angeles, Calif. – After District Attorney George Gascon and the California Labor Commissioner announced a joint investigation into the alleged exploitation of unhoused refugees by hotels across Los Angeles County, UNITE HERE Local 11 has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge alleging that a Holiday Inn LAX manager warned the same unhoused workers not to tell anyone about their pay or other working conditions.
The charge follows the publication of an in-depth article by the Los Angeles Times reporting that several prominent hotels, or agencies acting on their behalf, had brought in unhoused refugees from Venezuela and Colombia to replace their own workers during recent strikes. The article reported that the Los Angeles district attorney was concerned about “potential wage theft and violations of child labor law.” The article also featured interviews and photographs of several of these unhoused workers.
The Los Angeles Times reported that “one migrant worker, a 17-year-old student at Belmont High School who requested anonymity, said he skipped two days of school to clean rooms at the Holiday Inn LAX.” The article stated: “He and his mother, who secured work as a housekeeper at the Holiday Inn, received payment via banking app Zelle from an agency called Arya Staffing Services Inc. Aimbridge Hospitality did not respond to questions about whether staffing agencies it used had secured appropriate permits to employ minors.”
On October 25, 2023, just two days after this article was published, the same agency or agencies brought in workers from the same Skid Row shelter to work at Holiday Inn LAX. As the labor charge alleges, when the agency workers arrived at the hotel, a high-level manager greeted them and immediately warned them not to talk to anyone who was asking about their working conditions. The labor charge, which is pending investigation, alleges that this constituted an implied threat in violation of federal labor law and an unlawful prohibition against workers’ exercise of federally protected rights.
“We know that it is not easy for anyone to speak out about their working conditions–but it is even more difficult for recent migrants fleeing difficult situations who depend on these precarious jobs for their and their families’ survival,” said Ada Briceno, co-president of Local 11. “These workers showed unbelievable bravery when they chose to speak publicly about what they experienced working in hotels. We want all immigrant workers to know that it is their right to be paid and treated fairly, and it is their right to speak out when they are not.”
The Holiday Inn LAX is operated by Aimbridge Hospitality, a subsidiary of Advent International. Workers at a dozen Aimbridge-operated hotels in Southern California have walked out on strike in recent months. The workers are demanding living wages that will allow them to live in the communities where they work. Workers at one of these Aimbridge-operated properties, the San Pedro Doubletree hotel, have also filed a class action lawsuit alleging that their employer failed to provide statutorily required protections against sexual assault.
Santa Monica, CA: UNITE HERE Local 11 and Le Merigot Santa Monica reached a tentative agreement after months of negotiations, making it the first hotel in Santa Monica to do so during a citywide hotel sector labor dispute that has been marked by contentious strikes and picket lines. Le Merigot Santa Monica is the fifth hotel in the broader Los Angeles area to sign an agreement in this round of contract negotiations.
“I am thrilled about our new contract and what it will mean for me and my family”, said Maria Espinoza, a Laundry Attendant of 19 years at Le Merigot Santa Monica. “ I am pleased that we are the first workers in Santa Monica to reach an agreement, paving the way for our sisters and brothers at the other hotels in our city to do the same. My co-workers and I stuck together, and we won!”
Once the contract is ratified, the workers at Le Merigot Santa Monica will secure::
- Unprecedented wage increases that keep pace with the soaring cost of housing in Southern California
- Affordable, excellent family healthcare
- Humane workloads and safe staffing
- Improved pension increases so that workers can retire with dignity
- Numerous improvements, including historic Equal Justice language that, among other things, will provide access to union jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals and strong immigration protections.
Le Merigot Santa Monica, the Loews Hollywood, Biltmore Los Angeles, and the Westin Bonaventure have emerged as leaders in providing fair wages and benefits for its workers and superior service for guests. At the same time, the Le Meridien Delfina has been caught using unhoused migrants to break the strikes at their hotels.
“We value our staff tremendously, which this agreement reflects,” said Jessica Rincon, General Manager, Le Merigot Santa Monica. “And we are proud that we reached this agreement while maintaining a positive relationship with our employees. We look forward to providing the level of service that our discerning clientele expect.”
“We are pleased to announce our settlement at Le Merigot Marriott Santa Monica,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “We have now won standard-setting contracts in Downtown LA, Hollywood, Orange County, and Santa Monica. There are no excuses for the rest. Workers deserve to share in the prosperity of the tourism industry.”
SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Faith and community leaders in Santa Monica held a “Truth Commission” on November 16 in response to violence against picketing hotel workers at the Fairmont Miramar and the exploitation of unhoused migrant workers brought in to replace striking workers at the Le Meridien Delfina.
The event featured 9 Commissioners, including former Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, Santa Monica Human Services Commissioner Luis Barrera Castañón, and Ana Grande, Executive Director of the Program for Tortured Victims.
“Due to staff shortages, I did the work of 3 or 4 people,” shared Alexander Gallego, who recently arrived from Colombia and an unhoused migrant brought in to replace striking workers at Le Meridien Delfina. “They never told me that I had a right to ten minute breaks.”
Workers also spoke about being subjected to violence by hotel security guards, as well as alleged retaliation from hotel management for union involvement.“On August 5th, my coworkers and I were attacked by hotel security at the Fairmont Miramar. A guard threw me to the ground,” said German Martinez, a shop steward at the hotel. “I never expected violence from security, much less from the hotel itself. I still suffer from knee pain from falling on the rocks.”
Community leaders who were present as Truth Commissioners expressed their concern and support of workers, urging Santa Monica political leaders to enforce existing laws that protect workers from abuse.
“The hotel industry plays a very important role in this city, and we rely on the work that you do,” CLUE Board Member, Vivian Rothstein, told workers after they shared their testimonies. “Santa Monica prides itself on being progressive, and the city as a whole needs to know about this.”
“These worker stories are a call to action,” said Saba Waheed, Director of the UCLA Labor Center. “The city should investigate the claims we heard today about the violence and retaliation. Over the decades, Santa Monica has led the nation to pass policy to protect workers for exactly moments like this. Let’s amplify the strength of the city and its laws and protect the most vulnerable workers.”
“Because of Santa Monica, there are laws across other parts of Los Angeles county against the mistreatment, violence, and exploitation you have faced,” said former Los Angeles City councilmember, Mike Bonin. “This community and union have fought together to win those laws. But laws don’t change reality, they only change what’s possible. We need to insist on their enforcement. It has to be done insistently and relentlessly.”
Hotel workers across many Santa Monica hotels are in an ongoing labor dispute with hotels as they seek better wages and working conditions in what has become the largest hotel worker strike in modern history. On October 23, the use of migrant labor at struck hotels compelled Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to launch an investigation into potential violations by hotels and their subcontractors.
Following the Truth Commission, UNITE HERE Local 11 sent Los Angeles City Attorney Sloann a letter urging the city to further investigate possible violations of Santa Monica laws at hotels that brought in replacement migrant workers.
Anaheim, CA: Hundreds of room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, bellmen and other hotel classifications walked out on strike at the Hilton Anaheim this morning. The walkout comes as the JAMZ Bid Challenge 2023 Cheerleading Competition is taking place.
Included in their contract demands since early July are humane staffing levels, wages that keep up with the rising cost of housing, better pension, and affordable healthcare.
Hilton workers hope to inform the public about the severe understaffing levels and burdensome workloads they have faced since the pandemic. Hotels across the region, including the Hilton Anaheim, eliminated automatic daily room cleaning and as a result workloads have worsened. Additionally, hotels have refused to bring back enough staff since the pandemic, leaving hotel workers forced to sometimes do the work of two or three people.
Elizabeth Galindo, housekeeper of six years at the Hilton Anaheim said “I am striking because I rush from room to room trying to keep up with the heavy workload of dusting, making the beds, vacuuming and washing, so I can give our paying guests the best service possible. The hotel has made it extremely difficult because since the pandemic, they have failed to bring back enough staff.”
While most hotels operated by large chains have remained opposed in response to workers’ demands for living wages, there have been some breakthroughs. Most recently, the Loews Hollywood Hotel and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott reached tentative agreements with their respective workers, making them the third and fourth hotels to do so, following the lead of the Biltmore Los Angeles and Westin Bonaventure.
“The hotel owners continue to take advantage of the pandemic,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “The billions in pandemic relief that they got wasn’t enough. They made the jobs harder when they eliminated daily room cleaning, and they have failed to staff the hotels at pre-pandemic levels, forcing more work onto fewer people. Their greed knows no bounds.”
The hotel CEOs make more than $10,000 an hour but they can’t pay you a living wage? How low can they go? Watch as we march through Santa Monica. Strike! Boycott! Win!
The march on October 25 was historic and monumental. Did you feel our power? “You are the muscle in the room.” Susan Minato, Co-President, UNITE HERE Local 11.
We deserve more. The bosses might try to turn us against each other, but we won’t allow it. Our unity and our Union make us strong!
Santa Monica: Hundreds of hotel workers from multiple properties across Santa Monica, including at Le Meridien Delfina, walked out on strike demanding that hotels pay them living wages that allow them to afford housing. Workers also call upon the hotels to hire unhoused refugees who were exploited during prior strikes.
The strike and march comes amid a growing scandal involving hotels’ use of unhoused refugees to replace workers during recent strikes. As the Los Angeles Times reported, subcontracted workers, many of whom are unhoused refugees staying in shelters on Skid Row, were brought in to replace unionized workers during earlier strikes. Some of the workers were sent to California on buses from Texas as part of Texas Governor Abbot’s publicity stunts.
The subcontracted workers have since alleged that they were exploited while workers in the hotels, with some reporting they were deprived of their legally required meal and rest breaks and were paid in hand-written checks with no explanation of their hourly wage or hours worked. District Attorney George Gascon announced last week that his office would be conducting an investigation.
While most hotels operated by large chains have remained intransigent in response to workers’ demands for living wages, there have been some breakthroughs. Most recently, the Loews Hollywood Hotel and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott reached tentative agreements with their respective workers, making them the third and fourth hotels to do so, following the lead of the Biltmore Los Angeles and Westin Bonaventure.
The companies that make millions from our work must treat us like human beings. As a union, we raise our voices to say “We deserve to live with dignity. We are not disposable.” Together, we will fight for our rights and we will win!
10/25/23: an incredible day for Local 11 workers from Century Blvd to Sky Harbor airport, Downtown LA to Downtown Phoenix, Santa Monica to Orange County, and beyond! We went on strike to win the wages, benefits, and working conditions we deserve—and we’ll keep fighting until we win.
Los Angeles, CA: UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott have reached a tentative agreement on behalf of striking workers. The tentative agreement focuses on economic issues that, upon ratification, will raise wages, strengthen pensions, and increase investments in healthcare.
Laguna Cliffs Marriott and UNITE HERE Local 11 are proud to have come to an agreement that respects workers and allows staff to focus on providing the highest standard of customer service to guests.
The agreement comes as thousands of striking UNITE HERE workers from across 50 hotels took to the streets of Los Angeles to protest and organize for new contracts.
The agreement was reached in negotiations facilitated by Assembly Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez. “This is an example of how communities benefit when labor and management come together and work towards an agreement that is mutually beneficial.”
“We are proud to announce our latest settlement agreement that meets the needs of our members in wages and benefits,” said Kurt Petersen, Co President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “We are eager to begin a new chapter at Laguna Cliffs Marriott.”