SoCal Hotel Workers Authorize Largest Industry Wide Strike in U.S History, 96% YES

Los Angeles, CA: The region’s largest hospitality union, UNITE HERE Local 11, representing over 32,000 room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, front desk agents, servers and food service workers, voted to authorize a strike today.

UNITE HERE Local 11 could call for a strike at dozens of hotels with more than 15,000 workers as early as July 4th weekend.  This would be the largest hotel worker strike in modern US industry.

During the pandemic, hotels received $15 billion in federal bailouts and cut jobs and guest services such as daily room cleaning.  In 2023, Hotel profits in Los Angeles and Orange County exceeded pre-pandemic levels, yet hospitality workers continue to struggle to afford a place to live in the cities where they work.

Top on the list of concerns for hotel workers is the rising cost of housing.  In a UNITE HERE Local 11 survey, 53% of workers said that they either have moved in the past 5 years or will move in the near future because of soaring housing costs.

The strike authorization vote comes after more than a month of failed negotiations with hotel employers–including Hyatt, Hilton, Highgate, Accor, IHG, and Marriott. The union’s key demands are an immediate $5 an hour wage increase to keep pace with the soaring cost of housing; affordable family healthcare; a pension that will enable workers to retire with security, and a safe and humane workload. Negotiations began on April 20 but the hotel industry has yet to respond with any wage proposals.

“I voted yes to strike because I commute two hours from my home in Apple Valley to downtown Los Angeles. I deserve to make enough money to live near where I work.” said Brenda Mendoza, a uniform attendant at the JW Marriott LA Live.

“I am ready to strike for our affordable health insurance, because my chronic illness will not wait.” said Lupe Pitones, Front Office PBX, Westin Bonaventure Hotel.

“Hotel workers who work in the booming Los Angeles’ tourism industry must be able to live in Los Angeles,”  said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.  “The industry shamelessly exploited the pandemic and is now reaping greater profits than ever before. Yet workers cannot afford to pay the rent.  This 96% vote to authorize a strike sends a clear message to the industry that workers have reached their limit and are prepared to strike to secure a living wage.”

Southern California will be the first city in modern history to host back-to-back the FIFA World Cup in 2026 and the Olympics in 2028.  In recent decades, these mega sports events have left local governments indebted for years and have permanently displaced millions of poor residents.  UNITE HERE Local 11 is calling on the industry and political leadership to use the events to transform tourism jobs into family sustaining jobs and solve the housing crisis.

Thousands of Workers, Including UNITE HERE Local 11 Members, Rally to Demand Livable Wages Amid Housing Crisis

Los Angeles: Room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, food service workers, event center, and front desk agents continued the call for livable wages and better benefits this evening as they prepare to begin their fight for a fair new contract this summer. Nearly 200,000 workers are represented by the unions who rallied in Downtown Los Angeles to amplify the shared need for wages that allow workers to live in the communities they work.

Since the pandemic, the region’s largest economic engine—the tourism industry—has celebrated record profits while hospitality workers are overworked, fighting to stay housed and alive.

“I was priced out of my community in Los Angeles,” said Brenda Mendoza, a UNITE HERE Local 11 uniform attendant at the JW Marriott. “Now, I get a few hours of sleep every night and spend 4 hours a day driving on dangerous roads between my home in Apple Valley and my hotel job in Downtown LA.”

UNITE HERE Local 11 has lined up over 100 contracts to expire this year, with the goal to lift the low standards of hospitality workers amid a major housing crisis. The typical housekeeper wage in LA is $18.86 per hour—not enough to live in LA whether single or supporting a family. On top of that, the city is preparing to welcome millions of guests for the World Cup (2026) and the Olympics (2028). Local 11 intends to ensure that the residents of Los Angeles who put their sweat and tears into maintaining the city’s tourism industry are provided with wages that allow them to secure housing.

“When half of our members have been forced to move or will have to move while the tourism industry boasts record profits, something is very wrong with the system,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. “We are prepared to do whatever it takes to get workers wages that can secure local housing.”

At Universal Studios Hollywood, UNITE HERE Local 11 has joined in solidarity with IATSE B-192 to negotiate fair contracts for the 5,000 workers represented by both unions at the theme park.

“Two thirds of Local 11 and IATSE B-192 members at Universal Studios Hollywood earn around minimum wage while NBCUniversal boasts record profits,” said Susan Minato, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. “As a result, many workers have experienced homelessness.”

“My wages are so low that I had to choose between buying a car and housing,” said Universal Studios Hollywood worker Chris Lillian, who has worked as a food stand attendant for 4 years. “Without my friend who generously rents out his spare room to me, I would be homeless.”

Local 11 is coming together with other unions whose contracts are expiring this year to ensure workers receive their fair share and housing security in the prosperous city of Los Angeles. Workers invited the CA Democrats to join them in demanding what they need to live in the city they work in: fair pay that accounts for rising rent, pension, healthcare, and humane workloads.

Tourism Workers Rising Coalition to Partner with LA City Council to Raise Wage to $25 In Effort to Ensure Angelenos are Healthy and Housed

Los Angeles, CA – Tourism workers, the unions representing them – SEIU United Service Workers West and UNITE HERE Local 11 – and LA City Councilmember Curren Price are leading efforts to raise wages to be commensurate with a world-class tourism economy and world-class city. The proposed ordinance introduced by Price on April 12 would raise the wage for tourism workers to $25 an hour in 2023 with plans to increase their pay to $30 by 2028.

“The living wage movement is a social justice movement where here in Los Angeles nearly 9 out 10 tourism workers are people of color,” said Councilmember Price, describing the urgent need for the new measure. “It’s appalling to think that while the tourism industry has its future growth secured, the workers that keep this major economic engine functioning, safe and profitable are fighting to keep a roof over their heads. I’m honored to lead this fight at City Hall and continue to work with the Tourism Workers Rising campaign so that no workers are left behind.”

Los Angeles is assuring future growth for the industry as it gears up to host global events like the 2026 World Cup and the 2028 Olympics. Meanwhile, wages aren’t enough to keep tourism workers housed, as Los Angeles grapples with an unprecedented housing crisis.

“LA’s tourism industry thrives on the hard work of its employees. But right now, minimum wage workers must work over 100 hours a week just to afford an apartment in LA,” Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky co-presented the ordinance. “It’s time to raise the wage and make sure that the people who make Los Angeles a world-class destination can actually afford to live here.”

Over 100 tourism workers and coalition partners joined Councilmember Price for a press conference before he introduced the motion to the Council.

“My rent is going up to $1,400, and I care for my adult son with schizophrenia. I’m worried because I don’t want to end up on the street like so many others in the city,” said Graciela Gomez, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 and housekeeper at the Four Points Sheraton LAX for 23 years

Many of the working people who are the foundation of L.A.’s tourism economy, working in L.A. hotels and at LAX, are struggling to survive on the city’s current living wage, facing housing and food insecurity, or are forced to work two jobs.

“A $25 minimum wage would mean we do not have to live paycheck to paycheck. We would be able to afford reliable transportation to and from work and pay our utility bills in full instead of little by little,” said Gary Duplessis, cook at Flying Food Group for six years.

“Hospitality workers who make the beds, cook the food, wash the dishes, and cater to the millions of guests that travel to Los Angeles will also be the ones who make FIFA in 2026 and the Olympics in 2028 successful. Yet, while we prepare to host the events that will showcase our city, we cannot forget about workers like Graciela, Gary, and all tourism workers across the city who deserve to make an Olympic wage to stay healthy and housed.” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.

“The status quo at LAX is broken. The aviation industry receives billions in taxpayer dollars – including $54 billion of pandemic relief to big airlines and billions more in public funding for airports,” said SEIU United Service Workers West President David Huerta. “LAX is set to receive billions in investments to prepare for the World Cup and the Olympics. While corporate CEOs and airline executives are reporting record revenues, yet the very workers – mostly Black, Brown, and immigrant workers– who make their profits possible can’t afford to pay rent, pay for healthcare, and are forced to work two or more jobs to make ends meet. The City of LA can and must do better. We’re excited to launch the Tourism Workers Rising campaign to improve the working conditions at LAX so that all airport workers and their families have access to affordable healthcare and wages that allow them to thrive.”

“I struggle because it’s not easy working at LAX. Not only do I deal with health issues, my son does as well. In order to make ends meet and pay my rent, I work side jobs and I’m a cosmetologist in addition to working at LAX. All of that means sacrificing time with my son. LAX continues to grow, make money and receive billions of dollars in investments but workers struggle. When airlines received billions of dollars in bailouts, workers like me got a bailout in the form of hand sanitizer and a mask. We’re fed up, and we’re standing together to say it’s time to raise the living wage. It’s time for workers to matter,” said Jovan Houston, SEIU USWW Executive Board member and LAX customer service agent.

“As airport workers, we are exposed to threats on a daily basis – threats to our health, to our safety. We put our lives at risk every day in order to make LAX work. Yet, it has become increasingly harder for workers to make the rent, pay utilities or even buy basic necessities because our salaries remain stagnant. For decades, airlines have abused their influence to manipulate the system and prevent the progress workers need. Now, with the support of city councilmembers, we can fight for workers and raise the living wage,” said Oscar Antonio, SEIU USWW Executive Board member and LAX security officer.

STRIKE ALERT: Airline Catering Workers at Flying Food Group Walk Out on Strike

Workers walk out after allegations of federal labor violations and 9 months of failed contract negotiations

Inglewood, Calif. — Employees of Flying Food Group Inc. (FFG), a company that provides in-flight meals for many prominent international airlines at Los Angeles International Airport, went out on an unfair labor practice strike today. Cooks, porters and drivers walked out at 3 a.m. and began marching in front of the catering facility. Workers plan to hold picket lines day and night.

Tomorrow, workers will be on the second day of their strike and plan to continue it until their concerns are addressed.

Workers are striking to protest alleged unfair labor practices that FFG has committed in response to the workers’ campaign for a fair contract with decent wages and benefits. Employees have filed eight pending charges, including allegations that the company surveilled union activities, suspended an employee for his union activities and locked multiple emergency exit doors on a day workers planned a picket line protest.

“When I started working for FFG, I was paid only $8 an hour,” said FFG employee Olga Tirado, who has been with the company for 13 years and works in its cold food team. “Now I get paid $18.04 an hour, but it’s still not enough for my family and me to afford to live a dignified life in Los Angeles. And because the company refuses to provide us with pensions, I also worry about our quality of life in retirement.”

“I also feel unsafe and surveilled at work,” she continued. “As we have alleged in our complaints to authorities, one morning in early February the company locked multiple exit doors, including bolting at least one shut from the outside with a metal plate, on the same day that we had organized a peaceful picket outside our workplace. We only wanted to exercise our labor rights but it felt like our employer was getting in the way of that. We are striking because FFG must respect our rights and pay us a fair wage.”

“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 on strike.”

On March 15, employees voted 99 percent in favor of authorizing a strike in protest of FFG’s alleged unfair labor practices and its contract offer. The move comes on the heels of similar actions by teachers and other service workers across the region fighting for better working conditions and against unfair labor practices.

FFG employs more than 350 workers at LAX who prepare and transport in-flight meals to the airplanes of more than a dozen major airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Air France and Lufthansa–and, beginning in April, the luxury Taiwanese airline Starlux. Last year, Flying Food Group earned $46 million in revenue.

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

Compass/BAMCO Dining Hall Workers at Whittier College on Indefinite Strike

Workers on day 5 of striking for better wages and a pension

Whittier, CA: Dining hall workers who make and serve the food for the Whittier College campus and community walked out on an indefinite strike Monday for a contract with better wages, benefits and a pension.

Following last week’s wave of strikes by Los Angeles Unified School District teachers and food service workers, dining hall workers at Whittier College are the latest to walk out for the union contract they deserve.

Many of the workers, who are predominantly people of color, earn between $17 and $18 an hour, and many have to work multiple jobs to survive.  Some who have worked at Whittier College for decades have no way of retiring with dignity and face housing insecurity.

“After working for 17 years at Whittier College I only make $17 an hour. I had to move my belongings into a storage unit because I cannot afford to rent my own place,” said Daisy Machado, who works for Compass/BAMCO at Whittier College.

“I love serving the students but I am on strike because with what I make now I have to pinch pennies. Having a pension and better wages would be good for me, my family and my coworkers. We are part of the Whittier family and deserve for both Compass/BAMCO and Whittier College to value our work,” said Luis Martinez, who has worked at Whittier College for 15 years.

“I am on strike because I have to work two jobs. With what I earn working 8 months out of the year at Whittier, it is impossible for me to survive. I come here every day and give my best. I feel deeply saddened that the company is refusing to do the same for us,” said Mayra Macias, who has worked for Compass/BAMCO at Whittier College for 17 years.

“It is a huge sacrifice for me to feel like I have to choose between paying my rent or eating a meal. After working at Whittier College for 25 years I should not have to make that kind of choice. I am close to retiring, and have nothing to fall back on,” said Maria Guillen, who works for Compass/BAMCO at Whittier College dining halls.

“It is a human right to be able to provide for your family, and with the wages we are getting right now I have to choose between paying my car insurance or paying my rent. We are not asking for much, only for what is fair.” said Hector Silva, cook for Compass/BAMCO at Whittier College for 6 years.

The dining hall workers are represented by UNITE HERE Local 11 and work for Compass/Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO) at Whittier College, BAMCO is a subsidiary of Compass Group, the sixth largest company in the world.

Workers have been without a contract for 8 months, and no raises since 2021. Workers voted to authorize a strike a few weeks ago.

UNITE HERE Local 11 endorses Marisa Alcaraz for Council District 6

UNITE HERE Local 11 endorses Marisa Alcaraz for Council District 6.  This district is the home of many hospitality workers and is important to our Union. We believe that Marisa Alcaraz will best represent our members at the City of Los Angeles.

UNITE HERE Local 11 recognizes that among the many candidates in this district, there are a few who have track records advocating for our members. Marco Santana was endorsed by our allies at EAA and has been a leader on an issue of great urgency to the working poor: housing. Imelda Padilla worked with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and was a supporter of our efforts to raise the minimum wage for hospitality workers.

But while we credit these significant contributions by Santana and Padilla,  Marisa Alcaraz has the strongest history with our Union. She led the fight for a groundbreaking sectoral minimum wage for hotel workers – Raise LA – which became an example for hospitality minimum wage laws around the country.  Marisa Alcaraz stood with our members in the face of stiff opposition from powerful corporations, and we are proud to stand with her today.

“I’m voting for Marisa Alcaraz because she has been through hard struggle with us, has marched with us on the picket line, and understands our issues.” – Ana Cortez, room attendant at the Beverly Hilton. 

 

Hollywood Groups and UNITE HERE Local 11 Call for Boycott of Famous Tommie and Thompson Hotels 

Call for boycott includes associated restaurant and nightclub venues 

Hollywood, CA: Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice joined UNITE HERE Local 11 today in calls for a boycott of the ritzy properties in the heart of hollywood.

The boycott launched by UNITE HERE Local 11 asks the public only return to the Tommie and Thompson Hollywood Hotels and associated restaurant and nightclub venues Mother Wolf, Bar Lis, Ka’Teen, Mes Amis when they have demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that all workers and guests–regardless of their race, sex, body size, sexual identity or personal background–feel treated with dignity and respect and until the hotel owners enter into meaningful dialogue with community stakeholders to address the social impact of these businesses on the Hollywood community. They ask no one to eat, sleep, drink, or celebrate in these venues while the boycott is in effect.

In a joint letter sent to Machine Investment Group, Taconic Capital, Miramar Capital, Ten Five Hospitality and potential buyers of the Tommie and Thompson hotels, CLUE and UNITE HERE Local 11 said:

“The Tommie and Thompson Hotels have become well-recognized establishments, celebrating exclusivity, wealth, privilege, and glamor. It is not lost on us that there is a deep disconnect between the hotels and the lived reality of their neighbors here in the heart of Hollywood,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.“We hope that any future owners or buyers understand that we are looking for a good neighbor, willing to honor the hotels’ workforce and community, and who will be willing to fully address these concerns.”

Since the properties were put up for auction Tommie and Thompson have been embroiled in controversy as publicly aired disputes between business partners left workers in limbo.  UNITE HERE Local 11 also sent a letter to the owners and operator of the Tommie and Thompson Hotels in Hollywood alleging that the 5% service fee charged by at least five related restaurants may violate LA’s service charge laws and threatening to take legal action on behalf of employees harmed by the practice. Last month, the Union also called on the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office to investigate these potential violations.

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.