PRESS ADVISORY: Workers at Hilton Pasadena to Protest Amid City’s Crackdown on Free Speech

Workers will strike and picket despite City Attorney filing criminal cases against against workers who peacefully protested during earlier strike

Pasadena, CA: Dozens of hotel housekeepers, cooks and other employees of the Hilton Pasadena will be among hundreds of workers at hotels operated by Aimbridge Hospitality who will strike this Friday as part of a campaign for living wages, dignified conditions, and protections against sexual harassment.

The Hilton workers’ strike comes in the wake of criminal filings by the Pasadena City Attorney against protestors who participated in a peaceful picket line at the Hilton during a previous strike in December.  Pasadena is the only city in Southern California that has filed criminal charges against participants in strikes that have occurred at more than sixty hotels across Southern California.

The charges allege that the protestors used handheld bullhorns in violation of a city law that restricts the use of amplified sound that is more than five decibels above the ambient level. The union asserts that the law is unconstitutionally restrictive of free speech and that it was misapplied by the City Attorney in a way that stifled workers’ First Amendment rights.  Despite the City’s crackdown, the workers plan to strike again and to exercise their constitutional rights to peacefully protest.

Workers at the Pasadena Hilton join the already hundreds of workers at hotels operated by Aimbridge Hospitality across the Los Angeles area on strike.  Through strikes and an “occupy” action near LAX, Aimbridge workers are seeking send a message that Aimbridge’s to their operator that management’s recent response to sexual harassment allegations will not suffice and that they want respect and a fair contract.  Earlier this year, workers launched a boycott of the controversial hotel operator, which they have dubbed “Shamebridge.”

ON STRIKE: Workers at Aimbridge-Operated Hotels Launch Week of Action Following Company’s Response to Women’s Allegations of Sexual Harassment

Los Angeles: Hundreds of workers at hotels operated by Aimbridge Hospitailty across the Los Angeles area who have been waging a campaign for living wages, dignified conditions, and protections against sexual harassment walked out on strike this morning.  Through strikes and an “occupy” action near LAX, Aimbridge workers are seeking to send a message that Aimbridge’s response to sexual harassment allegations will not suffice and that they want respect and a fair contract.  Earlier this year, workers launched a boycott of the controversial hotel operator, which they have dubbed “Shamebridge.”

Over the last two months, six women at two Aimbridge hotels–the Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Monica and Sheraton Park Anaheim–have come forward alleging they experienced harassment and verbal abuse at work.  The women have filed pending complaints with the California Civil Rights Department.

In response, a group of more than forty prominent Californians, including State Senator Maria Elena Durazo and co-founder of the United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, sent a letter to Aimbridge’s new CEO Craig Smith on March 20 pressing the company to take specific steps to address the issue, including appointing an ombudsperson to provide an independent assessment of the company’s practices, recommend systemic reforms, and ensure complete and appropriate remediation in particular cases.  The workers’ union, UNITE HERE Local 11, has also pressed the company to adopt a series of specific collective bargaining proposals to address and prevent the sexual harassment of its members at Aimbridge-operated hotels.

On March 25, Aimbridge’s Vice President of Human Resources-Labor Dave Williams, responded by email, disputing the allegations “that Aimbridge managers have been ineffective or have failed to ensure full respect for employee rights” and stating “we are confident in our position, including the actions taken by Aimbridge in response to each of the underlying complaints.”  Workers and their union, UNITE HERE Local 11, view the response as woefully inadequate.  They note the allegations in some cases accuse managers of harassment and that it does not appear the company completed an investigation of the workers’ complaints prior to denying that any wrongdoing took place.

Workers across 35 hotels have successfully ratified their historic union contracts at other Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt properties across Southern California. Aimbridge Hospitality has failed to meet the new standard.  The company operates unionized hotels in the region that include Aloft El Segundo, Courtyard Marriott Santa Monica, Doubletree Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, Fairfield Inn and  Suites El Segundo, Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Monica, Hilton Pasadena, Holiday Inn LAX, Hyatt Regency LAX, and Sheraton Park Anaheim.

PRESS ADVISORY: U.S Senator Bernie Sanders Rallies with Workers from the Hotel Figueroa, Aimbridge, and Blackstone in Downtown Los Angeles

Los Angeles: Senator Bernie Sanders will join rallying workers at Hotel Figueroa on Friday afternoon as part of his visit to the region. Workers at the historic property have been embroiled in a labor dispute for the last eight months as part of the largest hotel worker strike in modern U.S. history and are among those at the 26 hotels that have yet to settle new contracts.

The rally comes as thousands of hotel workers at 35 hotels ratified their contract with an immediate $5 wage increase and $10 increase over the life of the contract, bringing housekeepers up to $35 an hour just before the 2028 Olympics.

But other hotel workers–particularly those at hotels owned or operated by private equity corporations–are still struggling. At the Hotel Figueroa–owned by private equity giant BentallGreenOak (BGO), striking workers allege someone fired ball pellets at them, apparently using an air rifle, while they peacefully picketed outside the hotel in January.  A month later at the same hotel, the food and beverage operator abruptly terminated its operations and fired its workers—only for the restaurant to reopen days later with a new operator contracted by BGO but without its veteran workers.  This week, a class action lawsuit was filed alleging that owner and operators violated workers rights under Los Angeles Hotel Worker Retention Law.

Workers at hotels by other private equity firms—Advent International, owner of Aimbridge Hospitality, and the behemoth firm Blackstone—remain without a contract providing fair working conditions. Of the hotels who have yet to settle, 78% are owned or operated by private equity firms. Workers from those hotels owned by each of these firms will rally with Senator Sanders.

Tourism workers across Los Angeles, including hotel and airport workers, are also calling for the City to raise its minimum wage rates across their sector.  Demanding an “Olympic Wage,” they are calling on the City Council to raise the minimum wage for tourism workers to $25 an hour immediately with increases of a dollar each year each year until the Olympics arrive in LA in 2028.

BREAKING: Class Action Lawsuit Alleges Hotel Figueroa Owner BGO and Operators Violated Los Angeles Hotel Worker Retention Law

Los Angeles–Today, a laid-off cook, Maria Ibarra, filed a class action lawsuit alleging violations of Los Angeles’s Hotel Worker Retention Ordinance at the Hotel Figueroa where more than a hundred workers have lost their jobs.

Located at the corner of Figueroa Street and Olympic Boulevard in downtown Los Angeles, the Hotel Figueroa is an iconic 14-floor building, which, in addition to guest rooms, features two destination restaurants, Sparrow Italia and Café Fig, and several other food and beverage outlets.

The hotel has been the site of controversy since, as reported in the LA Times, the hotel’s former food and beverage operator, Noble 33, abruptly terminated its operations and laid off its employees in February.

The lawsuit alleges that the Hotel Figueroa’s owner BGO (formerly GreenOak Real Estate) and operators have violated a city ordinance meant to protect workers’ jobs when there are changes in management by failing to retain them when the new operator took over.

The Hotel Worker Retention Ordinance was enacted to address the problem of mass layoffs of hotel workers that have occurred historically when corporate ownership or management of a hotel changes.  The ordinance requires that new owners or operators retain the site’s employees for a transitional period, ensuring employment stabilization for community members and alleviating the demands for social services for newly-unemployed workers.

The class action lawsuit alleges that, just days after Noble 33 ceased operations and laid off its employees, BGO and its primary operator Highgate contracted with a new company, The Botanical Group, to serve as the operator for the hotel’s Café Fig and other outlets.  Café Fig and other food and beverage operations were quickly reopened, but without their former non-management staff.

 

“We service workers are not disposable. We’re not something to be tossed aside when we’re no longer convenient. I am filing this lawsuit to make sure our rights are respected,” said Maria Ibarra, the lead plaintiff, a former cook at Hotel Figueroa.

The lawsuit accuses the BGO, Highgate, and Botanical Group of unlawfully failing to retain veteran employees. The suit also alleges that former operator Noble 33 failed to facilitate the transition by timely providing all necessary information about the workers to the other companies.

Ms. Ibarra and the putative class of affected Hotel Figueroa workers are represented by Lauren Teukolsky of Teukolsky Law and Jeremy Blasi in his individual capacity.

CONTRACT RATIFICATIONS

We have won an unprecedented agreement in every way, from wages, pension, and healthcare to job security, to fair staffing guarantees.  But our members’ tenacity and fearlessness is even more impressive. No one has fought harder to win a living wage, sacrificing pay and overcoming physical violence and abuse than room attendants, cooks and servers. They are  heroes.

PRESS RELEASE: UNITE HERE Local 11 Unveils Results and Terms of Historic Deal Reached At 34 Hotels

Los Angeles:  On Monday, March 25, UNITE HERE Local 11 announced the results and terms of the historic accords in a press conference outside of the Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Thursday, March 21st, thousands of hotel workers at 34 hotels in Southern California began voting to ratify tentative labor agreements with a range of hotel companies. 98% of workers voted to ratify the agreement. At 11 properties 100% of workers voted in favor of the new contract.

Since July 1, 2023, from Laguna Beach to Long Beach to Beverly Hills to Pasadena, more than 10,000 workers at 53 hotels have struck more than 160 times, making this the nation’s largest hotel worker strike wave in modern history. Hotel-worker wages, like those for all Angelenos, have not kept up with soaring housing costs. The striking workers have demanded that the hotel industry, which is enjoying record post-pandemic profits, cough up major wage increases so that workers can live near where they work.

As workers at 34 hotels held ratification votes, dozens of hotels remain unsettled, including the Hotel Figueroa, Hotel Maya, Doubletree Downtown Los Angeles, and the LA Grand, the site of the city-operated Inside Safe Program. At these hotels, workers continue to strike, picket, or boycott for their contract. Last week, workers at Proper Santa Monica, Hotel June, San Pedro Doubletree, and Proper Downtown Los Angeles walked out on strike.

“We have won an unprecedented agreement in every way, from wages, pension, and healthcare to job security, to fair staffing guarantees.  But our members’ tenacity and fearlessness is even more impressive. No one has fought harder to win a living wage, sacrificing pay and overcoming physical violence and abuse than room attendants, cooks and servers. They are  heroes,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. “And this dogged determination should signal to the rest that we will not stop until every worker has won the same magnificent contract.”

The announcement also comes days after the politically powerful union’s ground game was key in passing the highest minimum wage in the country in Long Beach ahead of the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, and securing Nithya Raman’s seat on the Los Angeles City Council.