Anaheim Hospitality Workers Submit Over 25K Signatures on Initiative to Guarantee Protections Against Sexual Assault and Fair Pay led by UNITE HERE Local 11

PRESS RELEASE: 03/13/2023

PRESS CONTACT: Maria Hernandez | 623-340-8047 | [email protected]

Anaheim Hospitality Workers Submit Over 25K Signatures on Initiative to Guarantee Protections Against Sexual Assault and Fair Pay led by UNITE HERE Local 11

Initiative would follow lead of Irvine and other cities to mandate panic buttons and other protections for hotel housekeepers

Anaheim: Hospitality workers in Anaheim have filed signatures for the “hospitality worker bill of rights law.” 

In recent years, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Glendale, and West Hollywood have adopted laws guaranteeing fair pay for heavy workloads and protection against sexual assault for housekeepers who work alone in guest rooms, among other protections.  Last year, Irvine became the first city in Orange County to follow suit by passing a “hotel housekeeper bill of rights” law.

The movement has now moved to Anaheim, where thousands of community and worker proponents have called for city ordinance providing the following standards at hotels and event centers:

  • Panic buttons with a security guard on call, mandatory training and security protocols to protect hotel housekeepers from sexual assault and threatening conduct by guests and others

  • Fair pay when housekeepers are assigned heavy workloads and a prohibition on mandatory overtime after 10 hours

  • $25.00 minimum wage for hotel housekeepers and other hotel workers with an annual increase in wage to reflect the cost of living

  • Protections ensuring workers are retained when new owners or operators take over their workplaces

The initiative comes as workers across the hospitality sector report that they have been forced to perform increasingly burdensome workloads without fair pay as business returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“I want Anaheim to know that all hotel workers have the right to protections and fair pay for heavy workloads,” said Irayda Torrez, a housekeeper for 33 years at Hilton Anaheim where panic buttons were not provided until 2019. “Housekeepers want to feel respected by having fair pay for our hard work and a wage that accounts for the rising cost of living.”

“The tourism industry’s workforce is tired of feeling overworked and underpaid as business returns to pre-pandemic levels,” states Ada Briceño, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. “Anaheim should look to Irvine as an example and adopt the housekeepers initiative to provide hotel workers with fair wages for hard work and guarantee protections for women on the job.”

Anaheim workers who run the city’s profitable tourism industry deserve dignity and respect, and all housekeepers should have basic protections in the workplace.

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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

UNITE HERE Local 11 Secures 4+ Million Dollar Deal with Recall Rights, Free Health Insurance and Pension Contributions for Laid Off Workers at Loews Santa Monica Hotel

Santa Monica, CA:  Hotel workers at the Loews Santa Monica Hotel reached a historic agreement with the hotel’s new operator, IHG and the hotel’s owner, Strategic Hotels, to provide recall rights, free family health insurance and pension contributions for the expected 9 month closure due to renovation of the property.

The UNITE HERE Local 11 bargaining committee secured an agreement that is worth more than $4,000,000 that includes:

  • Guaranteed Right of Recall
  • Fully Paid Free Family Health Insurance during layoff
  • Fully Paid $3.00 an hour Pension Contributions during the layoff
  • Penalty Pay if the renovations exceeds 9 months
  • Generous Severance Package for workers nearing retirement.  Some workers could earn more than $120,000.

“We fought hard for this extraordinary agreement.  While we are nervous about how we will survive during this layoff, knowing that our families will have health insurance and we will continue to build our pension is an enormous relief.  At antiunion hotels like Casa Del Mar and Shutters we know that we would be completely at their mercy.  At our hotel, because of the Union, we have a voice and can demand and win what we need,” said Ligia Rivas, who spent 11 years as a room attendant at Loews.

The hotel is expected to reopen before the end of the year as the Regent Santa Monica.

Airline Catering Workers at Flying Food Group Vote to Authorize Strike, 99% YES

Inglewood, Calif. — Employees of Flying Food Group Inc. (“FFG”), a company that provides in-flight meals at Los Angeles International Airport, voted today 99 percent in favor of authorizing a strike. 

The vote comes amidst a labor renaissance as teachers and other service workers across the region fight for better jobs. 

The workers’ primary contract demand is a significant raise to keep pace with the soaring cost of living. Some employees, the overwhelmingly majority of whom are people of color, earn only $18.04 an hour. 

Workers are also striking due to allegations that FFG locked multiple emergency exits to prevent workers from picketing and has not taken effective action to protect female employees from sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.

I will strike Flying Foods if we do not achieve a good contract for me and my family,” said Norma Reyes, 51, who sets up equipment for the catering company. “I cannot live on these poverty wages and feed my family.  We have also filed numerous complaints alleging FFG’s treatment of us violates the law. This company must change how they treat us. If it takes a strike to do this, I will strike along with my coworkers.”

“When multiple doors were bolted shut on the day of our picket, it felt like the company was treating us like animals and was trying to interfere with our union rights,” said Gary Duplessis, 62, a cook at the facility and a complainant to Cal/OSHA, “It was dehumanizing. We’re tired of being treated like this. If a strike is what we need to do to get FFG to respect our legal rights, we are ready. We are ready to do whatever it takes to get what we rightfully deserve.”

Evelin Flores, 37, who filed a sexual harassment complaint with the California Civil Rights Department, stated, “I voted yes because every employee deserves a workplace free from harassment and discrimination. After what my trainer did, I felt anxious and helpless. I have thought about leaving my job but I have five children and I have to provide for them. Together with my coworkers, I’m willing to strike for justice, for accountability and for a better life for my family and me.”

Airline catering workers serve the international tourists who visit our city year-round, and they will serve the athletes and travelers who come here for the World Cup and the Olympics,” said Susan Minato, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, the union that represents FFG employees. “Our union is committed to making sure that ALL tourism workers make enough to live near where they work, can retire with dignity, and are treated with respect on the job. Flying Food Group is failing in all of these areas, and so these workers are ready to strike.”

FFG employs more than 300 workers at LAX who provide in-flight meals to more than a dozen major airlines, including Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa. Last year, Flying Food Group earned $46 million in revenue.

Airline catering workers’ collective bargaining agreement with FFG expired in June 2022, and a six-month extension produced little progress during negotiations.

Terranea Housekeepers Launch Voter Initiative for Fair Pay and Legal Protections Against Sexual Assault on International Women’s Day 

Initiative would follow neighboring cities’ adoption of laws guaranteeing legal protections for housekeepers

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA: Today, Terranea Resort Housekeepers and their community allies launched a ballot initiative, the Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance, that would require hotels to provide fair compensation to hotel housekeepers and ensure legal protections for housekeepers from threatening conduct from guests when they work alone in guest rooms.  The ordinance would require:

  • Panic buttons with a security guard on call, mandatory training and security protocols to protect hotel housekeepers from sexual assault and threatening conduct by guests and others
  • Fair pay when hotel housekeepers are made to clean an excessive number of guest rooms
  • A $25.00 minimum wage for hotel housekeepers and other hotel workers with an annual increase in wage to reflect the cost of living

In recent years, similar laws have gained traction and now protect housekeepers in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Glendale, West Hollywood, and, most recently, Irvine.

In November 2019, as reported by the LA Times, the Terranea Resort’s ownership contributed more than million dollars to defeat a similar ballot initiative which would have protected housekeepers—a group made up predominantly of immigrant women of color—in Rancho Palos Verdes.  Undeterred, the resort’s housekeepers and their community allies are returning to finally win the legal rights they have been demanding for years.

“Across the tourism sector, we are seeing housekeeping workers being forced to take on even more burdensome workloads, even as business returns to pre-pandemic levels.  RPV should follow the many other cities that have enacted laws guaranteeing housekeepers get fair pay for their work and protections against threatening conduct,” said Nico Gardner-Serna, a member of the Rancho Palos Verdes community.

In recent years, multiple women, including 2017 Time Person of the Year Sandra Pezqueda, have alleged they experienced sexual harassment and other misconduct while working at the Terranea Resort.  The resort is owned by Lowe, led by Robert and Michael Lowe, and JC Resorts, which was recently accused of sexual harassment by women workers at a country club the firm manages.

“I felt there was no respect or protection of my rights at Terranea,” says Sandra Pezqueda. “Rancho Palos Verdes workers and community members know that we need to strengthen our laws to prevent abuse in the tourism industry.”

Community members and California NOW, the Feminist Majority, and the California Democratic Party have pledged to boycott the Terranea until women workers are treated with dignity and respect.

“The Terranea is a pariah. They spent more than a million dollars so that they would not be legally required to respect basic legal rights for their workers, many of whom are women.  They used the pandemic to fire their employees, discarding them like they were disposable, even as their owners, like Robert J. Lowe, continue to amass wealth from the hotel,” stated Lorena Lopez, director at UNITE HERE Local 11. “This law would protect the welfare of housekeepers who make the owners of hotels like Terranea so wealthy.”

In April 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, Terranea fired most of its employees, including those who had worked at the hotel from its opening.  Terranea workers led the fight to win SB-93—California’s right to return to work law—ensuring that the Terranea’s workers had a legal right to return to work at the hotel. The Office of the Labor Commissioner, led by Lilia Garcia-Brower, investigated complaints from workers alleging violations of the recall law.  As reported by the LA Times, after the DLSE cited the company for allegedly violating the law, the Terranea agreed to pay more than $1.5 million to 53 workers laid-off at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic whom the agency alleged it had failed to recall, or timely recall.

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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

Irvine Voters Stand by Hotel Housekeepers; Reject Half-Million Dollar Referendum To Block Pro-Woman Law

Irvine, CA The hotel industry failed to collect the number of valid signatures required to referendize the Housekeeper Bill of Rights passed in November by the Irvine City Council.

Housekeepers fought to pass the bill in 2022, which provides:

  1. Provide working panic buttons and other security measures like 24-hour security to protect hotel housekeepers from sexual assault and other threatening conduct.
  2. Reinstate automatic daily room cleaning.
  3. Ensure fair compensation for heavy workloads.

Led by Hyatt Hotels and the American Hotel and Lodging Association the industry spent over half a million dollars to defeat a law that would protect women from assault on the job and provide fair compensation for heavy workloads.  Their efforts proved unsuccessful and voters in Irvine rejected their message and stood by Irvine’s hospitality workers.

“My coworkers and I fought hard to pass the Housekeeper Bill of Rights in Irvine, and we are glad voters believed in the will of the City Council and us when we told them what we needed,” said Maria Balderas, housekeeper at the Irvine Hilton.

“The hotel industry lied to voters to protect their bottom line. In the end, voters saw through the sham and believed women, ” said Ada Briceño, co-president UNITE HERE Local 11.

Irvine became the first city in Orange County to pass increased protections for housekeepers. California cities such as Long Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Glendale and Los Angeles have similar ordinances.

Airport Workers Called on CEOs of North American Commercial Airport Governing Bodies to Help Solve LA’s Housing Crisis

Hundreds Rally Outside Invitation-Only Forum at Five-Star Santa Monica Beachfront Hotel

Santa Monica, Calif. Yesterday, a group of corporate airport executives convened an invitation-only forum at a five-star beachfront hotel while hundreds of airport industry cashiers, cooks, servers and bartenders marched outside, calling on hospitality industry leaders to help solve the city’s escalating housing crisis by supporting an increase to the minimum wage to allow workers to afford rent where they work.

Inspired by the more than 1,000 hotel workers and allies who rallied outside the American Lodging Investment Summit’s annual gathering held downtown two weeks ago, the rallying Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) employees, accompanied by many hotel workers, addressed attendees of the Airports Council International-North America’s 2023 CEO Forum. The event offered “an opportunity to help set the airport industry agenda for 2023” and featured “executive-level discussions on the North American and global state of the industry,” according to its Web site.

Carrying signs that read “Affordable Housing Now!,” “Rent Is Too Damn High!” and “Raise the Minimum Wage,” the airport and hospitality workers pointed to LAX’s current minimum wage of $18.04 an hour as a contributing factor in their—and in other working Angelenos’—inability to afford housing in Los Angeles.

“Although I welcome guests into our beautiful city every day, I can’t afford to live in LA,” said Eleanor Ramos, who’s worked as a bartender at LAX for the last 26 years.  “After my apartment building was bought up, my rent went from $925 a month to $1,395 a month overnight. I am barely hanging on to my housing. I’ve seen how many senior citizens have been left homeless and I worry that that will be me someday.”

The current airport minimum wage of $18.04 an hour would require an airport worker to labor 17 hours a day to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles.

“Today, it’s clear that there are two perspectives in the tourism industry,” UNITE HERE Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen said. “One of them is in that gathering of airport CEOs inside that hotel, where the bosses are celebrating their historic profits since the start of the pandemic, because airports and hotels are full once again. The other perspective is here, among us. We are not paid enough, and we can’t afford rent. More and more of us are forced to move to cities and towns like California City, Apple Valley and Lancaster because we can’t afford rent here in Los Angeles. That’s an insult and we must change this situation.”

Closing out the evening, and as a nod to the hotel hosting the CEO forum, hotel seamstress and Gardena resident Carmen de Castro spoke of not being able to afford rent in Santa Monica, where her employer is located; of long commute times to and from work; and of an uncertain future.

“It’s not fair that after 18 years of working for this hotel, we can’t count on a secure and adequate retirement,” de Castro said. “It’s not fair that we can’t count on a fair wage to be able to afford rent in the city where we work. That’s why I’m here today, to tell those airport bosses gathered inside that luxury hotel that we demand an increase to the minimum wage, but above all we demand to be treated with dignity and respect!”

UNITE HERE Local 11 Hospitality Workers Call on ALIS Conference Hotel Executives to Help Solve Housing Crisis

Demand Endorsement of Responsible Hotel Ordinance & Higher Wages to Afford Rent

Los Angeles: Over a thousand room attendants, cooks and servers with tools of their trade–beds, bell carts, mops–marched in downtown LA today asking the hotel executives attending the American Lodging Investment Summit, “the largest hotel investment conference in the world,” to step up and help solve the region’s housing crisis.

“I live in Apple Valley with my husband, our two sons, and my mother. Los Angeles is in the middle of a housing crisis and the hotel industry is perpetuating the decrease in affordable housing. Even with 5 people in one household, I cannot afford to live closer to the JW Marriott L.A Live where I work. I sometimes only sleep 2-3 hours a night. This is no way to live.” said Brenda Mendoza, uniform attendant of 15 years.

“Although I welcome guests arriving into LAX every day, I cannot afford to live in Los Angeles. After my apartment building was brought up, my rent went from $925 to $1325 overnight. I have seen how so many senior citizens became homeless because they could not keep up with the rising cost of rent.  I am barely hanging on.” said Eleanor Ramos, bartender at LAX for 26 years.

“I have to work two full time jobs and the only place I could afford a home in was California City. I sleep in my car in between jobs.  How can anyone achieve the American dream if this is what it costs?” said Leticia, a housekeeper at the Glendale Hilton for 22 years.

UNITE HERE Local 11 contended that the hotel industry’s historically poverty wage jobs and its irresponsible hotel development, which does not prioritize housing concerns, contribute to working Angelenos’ inability to afford to live in Los Angeles.

“At the investment conference thousands of hotel executives are celebrating record profits because they are making more money than they were before the pandemic.  Meanwhile the workers who make the industry prosperous have to live two hours away because they cannot afford to live where they work. The industry needs to help solve the housing crisis by paying a living wage and endorsing the Responsible Hotel ordinance.” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.

The workers also demanded that these hotel executives endorse the Responsible Hotel Ordinance and commit to increase hospitality worker wages. UNITE HERE Local 11 members collected a record 126,000 signatures from LA residents to place the Responsible Hotel Ordinance on the March 2024 ballot. The ordinance would require that housing concerns must be addressed in hotel development and creates a program similar to Project Roomkey to place unhoused families in vacant hotel rooms.

The protesters also called on the hotel industry to raise wages so that working families can reside in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Hotel Minimum Wage is $18.86 an hour which means that a hotel worker would have to work 17 hours a day to afford a 2 bedroom apartment.

The protest follows Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors declaring a state of emergency on homelessness.

“Tourism is one of the biggest industries in Los Angeles, and it’s one of the most profitable. Yet the workers who make that industry thrive face housing insecurity and rapidly increasing rents.  For too many, the dream of affording a home in the city where they work is completely out of reach. Some of these workers are even unhoused. This must change — and the hospitality industry can join us to be a part of the solution.” said Hugo Soto-Martinez, Los Angeles City Councilmember District 13.

BREAKING NEWS: Pomona College and UNITE HERE Local 11 joint statement

CLAREMONT, California – Pomona College and UNITE HERE Local 11 have completed a four-year collective bargaining agreement delivering historic wage gains for the College’s dining and catering teams. By July 1, 2024, all team members will reach a minimum of $25 an hour. On average, the contract will provide a 36% increase over the four years, further raising the standards for food service workers in the region. The College’s Local 11 members overwhelmingly ratified the agreement in a vote on January 18. 

Pomona College and UNITE HERE Local 11 issued this joint statement: 

“We are pleased to move forward with an agreement that recognizes the excellence and dedication of the dining and catering employees represented by UNITE HERE Local 11. The agreement provides substantial wage increases and, for the first time, the College also will make contributions to the union’s Legal Services Fund and Hospitality Industry Training and Education Fund. The agreement offers the stability of a multi-year contract to support Local 11 members and their families in making strong wage gains in the face of rising costs of living in our region. Coming after nearly six months of negotiations, the agreement shows the commitment of both parties to work through the collective bargaining process for the benefit of UNITE HERE Local 11 members and the entire college community.”

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. 

Pomona College holds a unique place in creating opportunity in American higher education.  It is one of a small number of colleges committed to need-blind admissions for domestic applicants and meeting the full demonstrated need of all students who enroll.

Chateau Marmont and UNITE HERE Local 11 Reach Historic Union Contract

Los Angeles, CA: In a historic breakthrough, UNITE HERE Local 11 and management at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont have reached agreement for a historic union contract.  Today, the hotel’s workers overwhelmingly ratified the contract. 

The new contract, which takes effect immediately, sets a new standard for boutique hotels.   Some highlights include: 

  • An immediate 25% wage increase for returning non-tipped workers. Housekeepers, for example, will earn $25.00 an hour within one year.  
  • Free family health insurance for workers who work 60 hours or more a month.
  • Free legal services for immigration, consumer and tenant issues. 
  • Union pension fund. 
  • Unprecedented protections for immigrants.  For example, workers with DACA and TPS work authorization have 5 years to return to work should the government or Supreme Court eliminate these programs.
  • Hotel recognizes Juneteenth as a paid holiday, making the hotel one of  the very first to recognize this historic day. 

The agreement marks the latest stage in a partnership between the iconic hotel and Los Angeles’s hospitality workers’ union.  In August, the hotel voluntarily recognized the union after a majority of workers signed union cards and promptly commenced negotiations for a first union contract.  The agreement formalizes the parties’ relationship and establishes a framework for cooperation both inside the hotel and beyond.  

Walter Almendarez, a worker leader of UNITE HERE Local 11 who served as a Bellperson at Chateau Marmont for 26 years, said: “I am so proud that my coworkers and I will be returning to work at the Chateau Marmont while providing a secure and dignified life for our families.”

UNITE HERE Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen stated, “The Chateau Marmont workers are the heroes of the pandemic.  After losing their jobs along with other hotel workers during the pandemic, they not only helped win California’s historic right to return to work law but now they will return to their jobs with an extraordinary union contract.  We commend the Chateau Marmont for negotiating in good faith and look forward to opportunities to build a more just Los Angeles together.” 

Irvine Becomes First City in OC to Pass Protections for Hotel Housekeepers

Law would provide fair compensation for heavy workloads and protections from sexual assault

Irvine, CA: Irvine housekeepers made history tonight, when the Irvine City Council voted 3-1 in favor of passing the Irvine Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance that would provide fair compensation for burdensome workload and protections from sexual assault.

The Irvine Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance will also:

1. Provide working panic buttons and other security measures like 24-hour security to protect hotel housekeepers from sexual assault and other threatening conduct.

2. Reinstate automatic daily room cleaning.

3. Ensure fair compensation for heavy workloads.

On October 25th, the Irvine City Council voted 3-2 to move forward a policy, Tuesday night’s vote was the final vote needed to pass the law.

“History was made in Orange County today, the Irvine City Council chose to stand with women against abuse by passing the law to provide fair compensation for burdensome workloads and protections from assault.” said Ada Briceño, co-president UNITE HERE Local 11. “Housekeepers are the backbone of this city, and this law will ensure more of them are treated with dignity and respect.”

Irvine will be the first city in Orange County to enact such protections. California cities such as Long Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Glendale and Los Angeles have already passed similar ordinances.

“The added measures of this new law make me feel protected and heard by our city leaders.” said Evelyn Martinez, Irvine Hilton housekeeper of 13 years.

“Thanks to the Irvine City Council for voting to stand with housekeepers like me across Irvine,” said Diana Nufio, Housekeeper at Irvine Hilton for 10 years. “The bravery of my coworkers and I has not gone unnoticed.”

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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.