Housekeepers speak in favor of the Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance at Irvine City Hall in 2022

PRESS RELEASE: UNITE HERE Local 11 Sues City of Irvine Alleging Violation of Public Records Act

The City has refused to disclose information about employer applications for waivers from Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance, which protects housekeepers from assault and overly burdensome workloads

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 06/14/2024
CONTACT: Josh Nuni | (213) 293-9797 | [email protected]

Irvine, Calif.: Yesterday, UNITE HERE Local 11 filed a lawsuit against the City of Irvine, alleging that the City violated the California Public Records Act by refusing to disclose information the union requested relating to enforcement of the Irvine Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance.

The Ordinance protects Irvine hotel workers from violent or threatening conduct from guests by requiring employers to provide panic buttons to employees who work alone in guest rooms or restrooms; and prevents hotels from assigning housekeepers overly burdensome workloads without fair compensation. Hotels are eligible for a waiver if they can show that complying would cause a significant adverse economic impact, such as “bankruptcy, a shutdown of the hotel, reduction of the hotel’s workforce by more than 20 percent, or curtailment of hotel workers’ total hours by more than 30 percent.”

Embassy Suites Irvine and at least 15 other hotel employers submitted applications to the City for a waiver from the law the month that workload-related provisions of the Ordinance went into effect, apparently claiming that compliance would cause a significant adverse economic impact. Nearly a year after submitting a Public Records Act request to the City of Irvine requesting the materials submitted by Embassy Suites Irvine and other hotels in support of their waiver applications, the City has refused to provide these documents—including documents demonstrating purported financial hardship.

A year later, the City has yet to indicate its position on these applications.

Embassy Suites Irvine is owned by RLJ Lodging Trust and operated by Sage Client 439, LLC, a subsidiary of Sage Hospitality Group. RLJ Lodging Trust reported $324.4 million in revenues in the first quarter of 2024 alone and, according to SEC filings, paid CEO Leslie Hale more than $8.5M in 2023. In November 2023, analysts projected Sage Hospitality Group to surpass $1 billion in revenues by the end of the year, according to CoStar.

In June 2023, Local 11 submitted a Public Records Act request to the City of Irvine, requesting the materials submitted by Embassy Suites Irvine and other hotels in support of their waiver applications, including documents demonstrating purported financial hardship. To date, the City has refused to produce these documents.

Irvine adopted the Ordinance in November 2022. Similar ordinances have passed throughout California, including in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Glendale, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Emeryville, as well as in Seattle.

Josh Nuni of The People’s Law Project: Los Angeles is representing Local 11.

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UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona who work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers, and airports.

Headline reading "Disney Vacation Club sales reps seek union election in Anaheim" over a photo showing someone from the shoulders down who is putting a paper in a Local 11 ballot box.

LA TIMES/TIMESOC: Disney Vacation Club sales reps seek union election in Anaheim

Headline reading "Disney Vacation Club sales reps seek union election in Anaheim" over a photo showing someone from the shoulders down who is putting a paper in a Local 11 ballot box.

PRESS RELEASE: New Group of Disney Workers Seeks to Unionize

Disney Vacation Club salespeople allege Disney has violated federal law, including by firing coworkers for organizing

Anaheim, Calif.: A group of nearly fifty Disney Vacation Club workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board last week requesting to schedule an election to join UNITE HERE Local 11. The election filing comes after the union filed seven unfair labor practice charges against the company over the last month.

The unfair labor practice charges, which are pending investigation by the National Labor Relations Board, include allegations that the company fired three employees because of their union activity—among them a top salesperson who had won an award for his performance just a few weeks earlier—as well as creating the impression of surveillance of union activities and making implied threats concerning worker leaders.

The National Labor Relations Act grants employees rights to join together to improve wages and working conditions—including by forming or joining a union. It is unlawful for an employer to interfere with these rights, yet workers allege Disney Vacation Club did exactly that in response to the workers’ organizing efforts.

“We started talking with each other about how we could make a difference at work, and then our leadership team started acting strange. They pulled some of us into meetings and finally fired three people who were involved in the organizing efforts—including two of our best sellers and one person who had almost 13 years of experience,” said Rana Salama, a Disney Vacation Club salesperson of more than one year. “We just want Disney to respect our rights at work.”

Disney Vacation Club is the business within the Walt Disney Company that sells ownership interests, usually called “timeshares,” in Disney Vacation Club resorts. The workers are seeking wages and commission rates that will allow them to live in the community where they work, as well as improved healthcare and retirement benefits, fair workloads, an end to management favoritism, and greater transparency.

UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona that work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers and airports—including nearly 3,000 employees of the Walt Disney Company.

BREAKING: Hilton Anaheim Workers Strike Over Wages and Understaffing Amid JAMZ Bid Challenge 2023 Cheerleading Competition

Anaheim, CA: Hundreds of room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, bellmen and other hotel classifications walked out on strike at the Hilton Anaheim this morning. The walkout comes as the JAMZ Bid Challenge 2023 Cheerleading Competition is taking place.

Included in their contract demands since early July are humane staffing levels, wages that keep up with the rising cost of housing, better pension, and affordable healthcare.

Workers strike at the Hilton AnaheimHilton workers hope to inform the public about the severe understaffing levels and burdensome workloads they have faced since the pandemic. Hotels across the region, including the Hilton Anaheim, eliminated automatic daily room cleaning and as a result workloads have worsened. Additionally, hotels have refused to bring back enough staff since the pandemic, leaving hotel workers forced to sometimes do the work of two or three people.

Elizabeth Galindo, housekeeper of six years at the Hilton Anaheim said “I am striking because I rush from room to room trying to keep up with the heavy workload of dusting, making the beds, vacuuming and washing, so I can give our paying guests the best service possible. The hotel has made it extremely difficult because since the pandemic, they have failed to bring back enough staff.”

While most hotels operated by large chains have remained opposed in response to workers’ demands for living wages, there have been some breakthroughs. Most recently, the Loews Hollywood Hotel and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott reached tentative agreements with their respective workers, making them the third and fourth hotels to do so, following the lead of the Biltmore Los Angeles and Westin Bonaventure.

“The hotel owners continue to take advantage of the pandemic,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “The billions in pandemic relief that they got wasn’t enough. They made the jobs harder when they eliminated daily room cleaning, and they have failed to staff the hotels at pre-pandemic levels, forcing more work onto fewer people. Their greed knows no bounds.”

BREAKING NEWS: UNITE HERE Local 11 Hotel Workers Reach Tentative Agreement with Laguna Cliffs Marriot

Los Angeles, CA: UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott have reached a tentative agreement on behalf of striking workers. The tentative agreement focuses on economic issues that, upon ratification, will raise wages, strengthen pensions, and increase investments in healthcare.

Laguna Cliffs Marriott and UNITE HERE Local 11 are proud to have come to an agreement that respects workers and allows staff to focus on providing the highest standard of customer service to guests.

The agreement comes as thousands of striking UNITE HERE workers from across 50 hotels took to the streets of Los Angeles to protest and organize for new contracts.

The agreement was reached in negotiations facilitated by Assembly Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez. “This is an example of how communities benefit when labor and management come together and work towards an agreement that is mutually beneficial.”

“We are proud to announce our latest settlement agreement that meets the needs of our members in wages and benefits,” said Kurt Petersen, Co President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “We are eager to begin a new chapter at Laguna Cliffs Marriott.”

 

Picketing and Leafleting Continue as Hotel Workers Return to Work After Second Wave of Strikes

More hotel worker actions on the horizon as entertainment industry strike grows

Southern California: As labor strife consumes the region, thousands of hotel workers at 12 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange County return to work today.   

The pandemic destroyed the regions’ most important industries, tourism and entertainment, as most actors, writers, and hotel workers lost their jobs overnight. Meanwhile the employers profited from the pandemic by taking billions of dollars in subsidies and forcing workers to work more for less. Workers are rising up together to demand a living wage that allows them to live in the city in which they work.  

Negotiations resume on Tuesday, June 18th. More strikes and other actions by hotel workers could take place at any time. 

“Since reopening after the pandemic, hotels began to eliminate daily room cleaning. Our workloads have become brutal and take an even bigger toll on us,” says Rosa Paz, housekeeper for 23 years at the Hilton Anaheim. “We went on strike because we work really hard and deserve better. Through the strike workers from all the hotels are more united than ever. We are ready for anything, inside, outside, at the negotiating table, and won’t settle for less than we deserve.”

Yesenia Reyes, housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency LAX which is owned by the Southwest Carpenters Pension Trust, the pension fund of the Southwest Carpenters’ union says, “I feel more empowered now than ever to continue fighting for a good contract.” She continued, “As a single mom, I rarely get to see my six kids because I work two full time jobs to pay my $2,000 rent and keep up with other expenses.”

“Thousands of workers at 33 hotels from Downtown Los Angeles to LAX to Orange County have participated in the largest hotel worker strike in California history,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President UNITE HERE Local 11. “Our city has reached a tipping point. The wealthy continue to live in luxury while workers, from actors and writers to room attendants and servers, live from one paycheck to the next. This fight is ultimately about whether those who make LA prosperous and beautiful will be able to afford to live in LA.”