WeHo’s Laid-Off Hospitality Workers Urge City Council To Pass Historic Hotel Worker Protection Policy
“Recovery Means Everyone”: A Just WeHo Economy Post Pandemic Must Include Hotel Workers
West Hollywood, CA: Dozens of laid off hospitality workers, West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath, Councilmember Sepi Shyne, Hollywood National Organization for Women, National Women’s Political Caucus of California held a press conference today to urge WeHo city council to pass a historic hotel worker protection policy.
“I immigrated to this country leaving my kids behind in Guatemala in search of a better life to provide for them and have worked hard to build a life for us. It is workers like me who dedicated their lives to building the hospitality industry in West Hollywood,” said Sandra Pellecer who worked at the Standard as a cook for 16 years.
The policy is aimed at ensuring workers in the hotel industry, many of whom have dedicated decades of service to the industry, have jobs to return to as the economy reopens. The policy will also contain measures to address other problems that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the risk of sexual assault or other threatening conduct for workers who work alone in guest rooms, inadequate compensation for heavy workloads, and the lack of comprehensive, standardized training.
“As a member of the LGBTQ community, I know West Hollywood prides itself in being a city of inclusion and equality. I hope the council leads with these values today and stands with hospitality workers like myself who help this city thrive,” said Jesus Ortiz who worked at the Standard as a cook for 4 years.
Similar worker recall and retention ordinances have been passed in many cities across the region, including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, Glendale, and Los Angeles County. In 2019, the city of Santa Monica passed a historic Housekeeper Bill of Rights with similar panic button, workload compensation, training, and worker retention measures. Santa Monica also passed a right of recall in the wake of 9/11. Encouraged by the Governor’s signature on SB93, West Hollywood is poised to consider even stronger legislation.
“As a housekeeper having protections from the risk of sexual assault, like panic buttons, would make me feel safer since I often have to work alone in isolated areas of the hotel,” said Norma Hernandez who worked at the Mondrial for 13 years as a housekeeper.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, more than 90% of hotel workers were laid off, most left without healthcare or job security, and many after decades in the industry. Workers in the hotel industry are overwhelmingly immigrants and women of color, some of the hardest hit amid the pandemic.
“Recovery must include everyone. A just economy demands that we do better than simply going back to what existed before COVID-19. The City of West Hollywood has an unmatched record of advancing human rights. I am delighted to work with Councilmember Shyne on this policy, which is one more example of our commitment to dignity and respect for all people,” said Mayor Lindsey Horvath.
The policy would ensure that hotel workers are a part of West Hollywood’s just economic recovery.
“The City of West Hollywood is actively working to close the gap of social, racial and workplace inequality. I am proud to work with Mayor Horvath to bring forward this item which will provide basic workforce protections for hotel workers who are often cleaning more rooms per day than the industry standard, putting their personal safety on the line when they enter rooms without any protective equipment such as panic buttons, allowing workers to return to and retain the jobs they love with dignity and requiring safe reporting and training. The free market has not provided these overdue protections for workers, which is why we must intercede,” said West Hollywood City Councilmember Sepi Shyne.
Workers Report Increases of COVID-19 Cases at LA Hotels as Industry Continues to Reopen
Los Angeles, CA: On Wednesday dozens of hotel workers protested for Los Angeles County to pause reopening of hotels to tourists.
The demonstration drew attention to the surge of workers who since returning to work have tested positive for COVID-19, experienced COVID-19 symptoms, or have quarantined because of contact with guests or co-workers who tested positive for COVID-19.
“UNITE HERE Local 11 has learned of at least 85 hotel workers and guests who have either tested positive or have undergone quarantine since the reopening of the hotel sector to tourists and leisure guests on June 12th. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors needs to put the health and safety of workers and guests first,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.
The union believes the true number of people who have contracted the virus or who should have quarantined due their potential exposure is significantly higher, since workers are fearful to report their symptoms or diagnoses and hotels have failed to adequately trace guests and workers who have had contact with COVID-19-positive individuals.
During the protest, workers also raised concerns that hotels have failed to inform guests when a worker or fellow guest has tested positive or has been forced to quarantine.
“I am very concerned that when my hotel opens, I will put myself and my family at risk, I have my son, elderly brother, and grand-daughter living with me. They are my everything. I am scared to go back to work,” said Luz Rizo, a housekeeper at the W West Beverly Hills for nearly 20 years.
Earlier this month, a survey conducted UNITE HERE Local 11 with nearly 2,300 hotel workers found that 75 % of hotel workers do not believe hotels are ready to open. The union has sent a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors expressing alarm about the rushed timeline of the sector’s reopening.