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.

A collage of group photos showing hotel workers celebrating at the Le Meridien Delfina, the Viceroy, the Sheraton Four Points LAX, the Courtyard by Marriott Santa Monica and the Hampton Inn & Suites Santa Monica

PRESS RELEASE: FIVE MORE! Including Viceroy, Le Méridien Delfina, Hampton Inn, and Courtyard Santa Monica Sign with UNITE HERE Local 11, Raising the Total to 46 Agreements

Hotels operated by Aimbridge Hospitality and the Hotel Figueroa remain focal points of labor dispute

Santa Monica, Calif.: Today, workers at the Hampton Inn Santa Monica, Courtyard Santa Monica, Viceroy Santa Monica, Le Méridien Delfina, and the Sheraton Four Points LAX became the latest hotels to sign the historic accord agreeing to the life-changing wages, benefits and other historic protections.

A group of two dozen hotel housekeepers in blue uniforms smile and raise their arms in victory as they learn about their new union contracts

The five new agreements come on the heels of seven others reached earlier this week, for a total of 46 settled contracts. In the past week, the Proper Santa Monica, Hotel Maya in Long Beach, Hyatt Place Pasadena, Proper Downtown Los Angeles, Westdrift Manhattan Beach, Hotel June West LA, and Alsace Hotel also signed.

A group of a dozen hotel workers smile and raise their arms in victory in front of a wall that reads "Viceroy"

Patricia Ibañez, a UNITE HERE Local 11 leader and housekeeper of 17 years at Le Méridien Delfina in Santa Monica said, “I am so proud of my coworkers for sticking together through this fight. It took grit, blood, sweat and tears, but we did it! I am excited to go back to my job after being suspended. The immense support I received from my coworkers and other community members inspired me to never give up. This is going to change my life.”

Dozens of hotel workers gather in the lobby of the Sheraton Four Points to celebrate winning a new union contract

The new contract has the largest economic increases of any industry-wide contract in the last 30 years.

  • $5.00 an hour raise in the first year; workers will have $10,400 more to pay for rent, to feed their families
  • 40 to 50% wage increases for non tipped workers over the 4.5 year term of the agreement
  • Most room attendants will earn $35.00 an hour by July 1, 2027
  • Guaranteed pre-pandemic staffing levels and mandatory daily room cleaning
  • One of the highest paid pension plans for service workers in nation
  • 50 pages of improvements, including Juneteenth as a paid holiday, unprecedented language for the fair treatment of workers impacted by the criminal justice system and protections of immigrant rights.

The contract will expire January 15, 2028, just before the world turns its attention on Los Angeles for the XXXIV Olympiad.

Hotel workers gather with balloons at the Hampton Inn Santa Monica

More than 10,000 workers at 52 hotels have struck 170 times so far in the largest strike in the history of the nation’s hospitality industry.

A group of hotel smile and pose in front of the Courtyard by Marriott

The membership has resolved to continue striking and boycotting until all hotels, including the Hotel Figueroa, all of the boycotted Aimbridge properties like the Doubletree Downtown Los Angeles that have not yet signed, and the LA Grand, the site of the city-operated Inside Safe Program.

7 New Hotels, Including Hotel Maya Long Beach, Sign with UNITE HERE Local 11, Raising the Total to 41 Agreements  

Recalcitrant Aimbridge Hospitality, Hotel Figueroa remain focal points of bitter labor dispute 

Los Angeles:  Following the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Hotel Maya Long Beach has signed a tentative contract agreement. In the past week, the Hyatt Place Pasadena, Proper Santa Monica, Proper Downtown Los Angeles, Westdrift Manhattan Beach, Hotel June West LA, and Alsace Hotel also signed the historic accord.

UNITE HERE Local 11 and Hotel Maya issued this statement: “The Hotel Maya and UNITE HERE Local 11 are pleased to announce we have reached a fair settlement of our dispute. The settlement includes a commitment from all parties to engage in a good-faith reconciliation  process.”

The seven new agreements come at the heels of overwhelming ratification votes at 35 hotels, for a total of 41 settled contracts.

More than 10,000 workers at 52 hotels have struck 170 times so far in the largest strike in the history of the nation’s hospitality industry. Workers at five hotels struck last week and several more are set to go out this week.

The new contract has the largest economic increases of any industry-wide contract in the last 30 years.

  • $5.00 an hour raise in the first year; workers will have $10,400 more to pay for rent, to feed their families

  • 40 to 50% wage increases for non tipped workers over the 4.5 year term of the agreement

  • Most room attendants will earn $35.00 an hour by July 1, 2027

  • Guaranteed pre-pandemic staffing levels and mandatory daily room cleaning

  • One of the highest paid pension plans for service workers in nation

  • 50 pages of improvements, including Juneteenth as a paid holiday, unprecedented language for the fair treatment of workers impacted by the criminal justice system and protections of immigrant rights.

The contract will expire January 15, 2028, just before the world turns its attention on Los Angeles for the XXXIV Olympiad.

The membership has resolved to continue striking and boycotting until all hotels, including the Hotel Figueroa, all of the boycotted Aimbridge properties like the Doubletree Downtown Los Angeles, and the LA Grand, the site of the city-operated Inside Safe Program.

“My coworkers and I dealt with unthinkable violence to get to this point. We are proud that we never gave up, and we look forward to having the same standard raising benefits and protections other hotel workers now enjoy.” said Camila Delgado, Housekeeper at Hotel Maya.

“The workers at the Maya and the newly settled hotels are heroes. Despite living precariously close to being unhoused, they struck over and over without pay to win a living wage,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.  “They have not only won a life changing agreement – an unprecedented $5.00 an hour in the 1st year – but they have given hope to all working people that when you fight, you win.  It is time for the greedy few who remain – including Hotel Figueroa and private equity titans Blackstone and Aimbridge – to sign a fair contract.”

“Congratulations to members of UNITE HERE Local 11 and Hotel Maya Long Beach on reaching a historic contract agreement that ensures hospitality workers will have the dignity of living wages and industry-leading benefits to support their families,” said Mayor Rex  Richardson, “Over the next four years, as we prepare for the 2028 Olympics and welcome visitors from around the world to our vibrant Long Beach community, we can be proud that our local tourism economy continues to thrive, while placing value on the workforce that keeps our hospitality industry running.”

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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

GRAND PRIX STRIKE ALERT: Hotel Maya Workers Vow to Walk Out if No Deal Reached During Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

PRESS RELEASE: 04/18/2024
PRESS CONTACT: Maria Hernandez | 623-340–8047

Long Beach: Hotel Maya workers are prepared to strike during the biggest event in Long Beach, the Acura Grand Prix, if the hotel does not reach an agreement. 

“My family and I share a small apartment with two other families because we cannot afford anything else. That is why I am out here peacefully taking action, to secure a better future. We are ready to strike during the Grand Prix if we do not get a contract.” said Camila, housekeeper at Hotel Maya.

The workers’ primary contract goals include wage increases to keep pace with the soaring cost of housing in Los Angeles, quality and affordable health insurance, a pension to retire with dignity, and humane workloads. Workers are demanding that Ensemble Investment and its operated properties, including Hyatt Place Pasadena, sign the standard-setting agreement, which 35 other hotels across the region have agreed to. 

Workers there have been met with violence and various labor issues since they have been fighting for a contract. UNITE HERE Local 11 has raised concerns with Ensemble after a disturbing incident on December 13 outside of the hotel. According to workers, a housekeeper was participating in a peaceful picket line at the Maya Hotel with a sign and a megaphone when a man, since identified as an investor in the hotel, approached her. According to these allegations, the man grabbed and tried to yank the megaphone out of the housekeeper’s hand while yelling at her. 

The hotel workers’ union has filed federal labor charges about the incident, as well as a charge alleging the company failed to provide video footage and access to the guest registry in order to investigate.

This is not the first incidence of violence at the hotel. As is alleged in the letter, during another incident on August 5, Maya hotel security and guests attempted to use a chain link fence to forcibly relocate a group of striking workers while they peacefully picketed on a sidewalk, while a guest came around the fence and punched a worker in the head.  The worker experienced injuries and medical expenses as a result.  The attack was captured on video which has been circulated widely and reported in the press. 

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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

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.

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.

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.