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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: Today, thousands of UNITE HERE Local 11 hotel workers at multiple properties walked out on strike fighting for wages to keep up with the rising cost of housing and a new contract.
The strike comes as the citywide convention of the American Political Science Association (APSA) begins on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Hundreds of APSA members have canceled their plans to attend after APSA leadership defied requests by hotel workers to cancel the event.
Last week, the workers’ call for conventions to boycott and stay away from Los Angeles marked a major escalation in the largest hotel worker strike in U.S. history. Joining the workers’ call were APSA members, SEIU Local 99, AFSCME Local 3299, and others.
“As a mother I often have to choose between paying for my rent and buying groceries. The solution is simple, hotels need to agree to the wages that we need to stay housed. Until then, we will continue to call on all groups and conventions coming to Los Angeles to boycott,” said Delmy Cabañas, Housekeeper at the JW Marriott L.A LIVE.
“Strikes and disruption will be the norm at LA hotels until the industry pays its workers a living wage. We are saddened that APSA leadership sided with greedy hotel corporations over the call of workers for a living wage. We applaud those political science professors who stayed away from LA. Those professors who came to LA will reside in, to borrow the hotel industry’s new slogan, ‘Hotel Hell.’ Dirty rooms and non stop noise will be the only amenities,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.
“For those who are deciding on whether to hold your event in LA including FIFA and the Olympics, the choice is clear. On one side, there is the boundless greed and violent conduct of rapacious corporations. On the other side, there is the sacrifice, solidarity and courage of these workers fighting for a living wage. Which side are you on?”
Los Angeles: Today, UNITE HERE Local 11 members, along with representatives from future citywide conventions and events, announced a boycott of Los Angeles, until the hotel industry pays a living wage and puts an end to violence against its striking members. The workers’ call for conventions to stay away from Los Angeles marks a major escalation in the largest hotel worker strike in U.S. history.
In a statement of support, Kathryn Lybarger President AFSCME 3299 said, “AFSCME 3299 stands in solidarity with the brave workers of UNITE HERE Local 11 and their struggle for justice and ability to live and thrive in the Los Angeles economy they helped build. Until the workers win the fair settlement they are fighting for, AFSCME 3299 will honor their boycott and picket lines. We commit to not spend a dime of our members’ money in any boycotted Los Angeles hotel or business. Our money will however be going towards supporting striking workers. Today we donate $25,000 and pledge to do all we can to stand with them until they win. Their struggle is our struggle.
“We moved our event twice, to stand with hotel workers. We call on our nonprofit and for-profit friends. Move your conferences, and gatherings to places that value hospitality workers, their servers, their housekeepers – move your events or boycott LA!” said Ana Grande, Executive Director of the Program for Torture Victims.
“SEIU Local 99 members are proud to support the boycott of hotels that disrespect workers. Our union canceled business with Hotel Maya this summer. At our urging, the LAUSD school board also agreed not to do business with hotels that have active labor disputes. Instead of responding with violence and threats, hotel corporations need to know that when workers are under attack – we fight back on the picket line and with our pocketbooks,” said Max Arias, Executive Director of SEIU Local 99.
“I am fighting to keep a roof over my head. Right now 80% of my income goes toward rent for my studio apartment. My wages are not keeping up with the high cost of living. That is why we call on all upcoming conventions to boycott Los Angeles until we get the wages we deserve.” said Cristina Betancourt, housekeeper at the Ritz Carlton/JW Marriott LA LIVE.
Already, the hotel strikes have caused many groups such as the Democratic Governors Association, the Japanese American Citizens League, and The Council of State Governments West to relocate, suspend or cancel their events. Hundreds of members of the American Political Science Association (APSA), who has a 6,000-person convention set in Los Angeles on Labor Day weekend, have canceled their plans to attend after APSA leadership defied request by hotel workers to cancel the event.
“Many political science professors have already pledged to not attend the APSA convention Labor Day weekend. I call on all academic organizations including APSA, to protect the integrity of their organization and to stand with hotel workers. Honor their boycott,” said Peter Dreier, longtime member of the American Political Science Association.
Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11 said, “For those who are deciding on whether to hold your event in LA including FIFA and the Olympics, the choice is clear. On one side, there is the boundless greed and violent conduct of rapacious corporations. On the other side, there is the sacrifice, solidarity and courage of these workers fighting for a living wage. Which side are you on?”
Workers have demanded an immediate $5 an hour raise so that they can afford to live in the city where they work. The industry walked away from the bargaining table a month ago and has used and hotels have been accused of inciting or condoning violence against striking workers. Earlier this month, the union filed federal labor charges against the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, Hotel Maya in Long Beach and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point alleging hotel management committed or condoned violence against their own employees while they have been on strike and picketing.
Los Angeles is arguably the world’s epicenter of tourism. No other city has ever hosted the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics back to back, as Los Angeles is set to do in 2026 and 2028, respectively. Local 11 will ask all future groups, including FIFA and the Olympics, to boycott the city to support their demands.
Workers, including here in my home state of California, are fighting for fair pay, good benefits, and a voice at work. As the President and I always say, every worker — from writers, to actors, to hospitality and municipal workers — deserves a fair contract.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) August 18, 2023
We hear from the hotel companies that they think striking workers will have to cave because they don’t have the same financial resources as the multi-billion dollar companies who are enjoying record profits. The pledge to back us up takes that power away from them. The bosses always underestimate the power of their workers and the labor movement.
“I think what management was trying to do was divide us. But I think it backfired and it brought us together and closer,” said David, bellman at the @HotelMayaDT, about the latest outbreak of violence against hotel workers protesting.
— UNITE HERE Local 11 (@UNITEHERE11) August 16, 2023
Broad labor movement support raises possibility of prolonged conflict
Los Angeles – California unions announced their pledge of financial support for hotel workers who have been leading the largest wave of hotel strikes in modern history. Collectively, the unions pledging support represent 2.1 million workers.
“At this moment when workers of practically every industry are coming together to take a stand, we as union leaders can do no less,” said Yvonne Wheeler, the President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “I am proud that our union sisters and brothers have come together to pool our resources to back each other up.”
The coalition of unions includes the California Federation of Labor, California Teachers Association, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, UFCW 770, UFCW Local 324, SEIU USWW, California State Firefighters’ Association, and IBEW Local 11. All of them have pledged the following:
“We will back UNITE HERE Local 11’s strikes financially and otherwise until they win. Securing living wages and financial security for working people remains forever and always our number one priority. When we fight together, we win for everyone.”
Lorena Fletcher Gonzalez, the Executive Secretary Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, stated: “The labor movement membership in California is one of the largest in the world, and when we stand together we can match the strength and resources of any corporation. This is how we win strikes – through the power of our solidarity.”
UNITE HERE Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen praised the move, stating: “We hear from the hotel companies that they think striking workers will have to cave because they don’t have the same financial resources as the multi-billion dollar companies who are enjoying record profits. The pledge to back us up takes that power away from them. The bosses always underestimate the power of their workers and the labor movement.”
Southern California: Hotel workers at the Hotel Maya in Long Beach, Laguna Cliffs Marriott Dana Point, and Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica are calling for a boycott because of management’s use or condoning of violence during the largest hotel strike in U.S. history. The boycott announcement comes as conventions, such as the American Political Science Association, arrive in the region.
“I was punched in the face while peacefully protesting for a living wage, and hotel security and management not only did nothing to stop the violence, but actually participated in it by trying to forcibly relocate our picket line using a chain link fence. I don’t have health insurance and now on top of worrying about my bills, I have to figure out how to pay my medical expenses,” said Carlos Cheverri Canalés. “I ask the public to not spend a single penny at the Hotel Maya until they commit to paying a fair wage and ending violence against strikers.”
“For 38 years I have welcomed guests into Santa Monica, but the moment I stood up for a better life for me and my family, security tackled me to the ground while we were trying to establish a picket line in front of the hotel.” said German Martinez, dishwasher at Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica. “My legs and arms may be bruised, but my will to keep going is not. That’s why I am calling for a boycott.”
While picketing, Emilse Pineda was punched in the head by a guest at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Dana Point. “I was in shock as the punch came out of the blue,” recalls the housekeeper. “I reported the incident to hotel security, but they did nothing to help identify the man or remove him. I felt almost drunk and woozy and had headaches over the next several days. The day after the punch, I passed out and the paramedics were called. As far as I know, the hotel has done nothing about this incident.”
Last week, UNITE HERE Local 11 filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against these hotels and the hotel industry’s bargaining group, the Coordinated Bargaining Group, alleging that the group of employers have interfered with their employees’ right to organize by unlawfully committing and/or condoning violence against employees in response to strike and picket activity, in particular at the Hotel Maya, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point. The Westin Bonaventure has come to an agreement, leaving 60 hotels with open contracts.
Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11 adds, “Our members have taken the step to ask the public not to ‘eat, sleep, or meet’ at the three hotels – Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, Maya Hotel in Long Beach and Laguna Cliffs Marriott – where hotels used or condoned violence to stop workers from fighting for wages that will enable them to live in the community where they work. We will not be intimidated at the bargaining table or the picket line.”
Already 46 hotels have gone on strike in LA and Orange County. We had an epic rally in downtown and six LA City Councilmembers joined the party. This is what five of them said.