Hundreds Rally Outside Invitation-Only Forum at Five-Star Santa Monica Beachfront Hotel
Santa Monica, Calif. Yesterday, a group of corporate airport executives convened an invitation-only forum at a five-star beachfront hotel while hundreds of airport industry cashiers, cooks, servers and bartenders marched outside, calling on hospitality industry leaders to help solve the city’s escalating housing crisis by supporting an increase to the minimum wage to allow workers to afford rent where they work.
Inspired by the more than 1,000 hotel workers and allies who rallied outside the American Lodging Investment Summit’s annual gathering held downtown two weeks ago, the rallying Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) employees, accompanied by many hotel workers, addressed attendees of the Airports Council International-North America’s 2023 CEO Forum. The event offered “an opportunity to help set the airport industry agenda for 2023” and featured “executive-level discussions on the North American and global state of the industry,” according to its Web site.
Carrying signs that read “Affordable Housing Now!,” “Rent Is Too Damn High!” and “Raise the Minimum Wage,” the airport and hospitality workers pointed to LAX’s current minimum wage of $18.04 an hour as a contributing factor in their—and in other working Angelenos’—inability to afford housing in Los Angeles.
“Although I welcome guests into our beautiful city every day, I can’t afford to live in LA,” said Eleanor Ramos, who’s worked as a bartender at LAX for the last 26 years. “After my apartment building was bought up, my rent went from $925 a month to $1,395 a month overnight. I am barely hanging on to my housing. I’ve seen how many senior citizens have been left homeless and I worry that that will be me someday.”
The current airport minimum wage of $18.04 an hour would require an airport worker to labor 17 hours a day to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles.
“Today, it’s clear that there are two perspectives in the tourism industry,” UNITE HERE Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen said. “One of them is in that gathering of airport CEOs inside that hotel, where the bosses are celebrating their historic profits since the start of the pandemic, because airports and hotels are full once again. The other perspective is here, among us. We are not paid enough, and we can’t afford rent. More and more of us are forced to move to cities and towns like California City, Apple Valley and Lancaster because we can’t afford rent here in Los Angeles. That’s an insult and we must change this situation.”
Closing out the evening, and as a nod to the hotel hosting the CEO forum, hotel seamstress and Gardena resident Carmen de Castro spoke of not being able to afford rent in Santa Monica, where her employer is located; of long commute times to and from work; and of an uncertain future.
“It’s not fair that after 18 years of working for this hotel, we can’t count on a secure and adequate retirement,” de Castro said. “It’s not fair that we can’t count on a fair wage to be able to afford rent in the city where we work. That’s why I’m here today, to tell those airport bosses gathered inside that luxury hotel that we demand an increase to the minimum wage, but above all we demand to be treated with dignity and respect!”