Long Beach, CA – The California Labor Commissioner’s Office issued a citation Monday totalling $4.8 million to the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, alleging that the hotel failed to recall, or to timely recall, workers to their former positions in violation of state law. The citation is the largest citation known to have been issued against a hotel company in state history.
Signed into law in 2021, SB-93 requires hotels, event centers, and other hospitality businesses to offer employees whom they laid off due the COVID-19 downturn in tourism an opportunity to return to work in open positions for which they are qualified in order of seniority. The law, recently extended until December 31, 2024, provides job protection to some 700,000 laid-off housekeepers, cooks, waiters, and others across the state.
Rigoberto Villagrana, who was laid off by the Hyatt Regency after working at the hotel since 1996, said, “Being laid off during the pandemic has been devastating for me and my family. We’ve struggled to pay our mortgage and keep food on the table. I am really glad to see the state stepping in to make sure Hyatt Regency complies with the law.”
The Labor Commissioner’s Office, which is led by Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower, conducted an investigation in response to complaints from workers alleging violations of the recall law.
“Some of these employees had as much as 24 years of experience, and were suddenly out of work due to a public health emergency,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower. “The employer failed to offer them their old jobs back in compliance with the law.”
After investigating Hyatt Regency’s recall practices, the agency issued a citation to Hyatt Regency for $4,799,563.84 in liquidated damages and interest owed to dozens of workers and civil penalties for the hotel’s alleged failure to recall, or timely recall, workers laid-off due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, the hospitality workers’ union that fought for the law and helped the workers file complaints, said, “The Hyatt Regency in Long Beach has treated its veteran workers like they are disposable. This kind of behavior is not only immoral, but as the agency’s massive citation shows, it can also be illegal.” He continued, “I commend the Labor Commissioner for conducting such a thorough investigation and showing that our worker protection laws have real teeth.”
Long Beach, CA: Over a hundred hospitality workers, Long Beach community leaders, and their allies testified and attended the Long Beach City Council meeting on Tuesday in favor of putting an initiative on the 2024 ballot that would put the city on a pathway to raise the wage for hospitality workers to $25 per hour.
The council voted unanimously to direct city staff to draft the policy that would go on the March 2024 ballot.
Yadira Aguilar, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Centric said “As a single mother, a better wage would mean I could better provide for my family. I pay $1,900 in rent and also take care of my sick mother in Mexico. It is hospitality workers like myself who make Long Beach run. Thank you to the council for hearing our voices.”
Ada Briceño, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11 said, “During the pandemic, our members lost their livelihoods overnight and since then the tourism industry has bounced back with the help of billions in PPP loans. Hotels are now near maximum capacity, and making record profits. Thank you to the Long Beach City Council for voting to put hospitality workers and their families first.”
Grecia Lopez-Reyez, Director for Long Beach for a Just Economy said. “A ballot measure is an opportunity for voters to decide to raise the wage again for hospitality workers who are the backbone of a profitable industry. When workers thrive, we all thrive.”
“Long Beach’s tourism and hospitality industry plays a pivotal role in our local economy, and workers are the backbone of the industry. While the Long Beach City Council voted to forward a ballot measure to amend the Long Beach Hotel Worker Wage Ordinance by increasing the minimum wage, voters will ultimately decide in the March 2024 municipal election. I hope voters will vote to support it.” said Long Beach Councilmember Saro.
The push to raise the wage for Long Beach hospitality workers comes as the tourism industry has seen record revenue while workers struggle to stay housed and provide for their families.
Similar initiatives are being considered in other cities in the region, including Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Santa Monica. The council is expected to come back for a final vote on October 24, 2023.
“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
Long Beach voters overwhelmingly approve Measure N, a hotel worker minimum wage increase.