Los Angeles: On Wednesday morning, October 25th, thousands of striking hotel workers from 50 hotels gathered and marched through Downtown Los Angeles to protest poverty wages and the hotels’ exploitation of unhoused refugees to replace striking workers.
The march comes after a fruitless negotiation meeting last week in which a group of hotel employers presented hundreds of SoCal workers with a “new” proposal to resolve the months-long labor dispute. Enraging workers, the hotels did not meaningfully improve upon their prior position, offering no new money for wages, pension, or health insurance. Amid soaring housing costs, workers have been demanding wages that will enable them to afford to live in the communities where they work. Many now commute hours to and from work, with some hotel workers reporting sleeping in their cars.
The march also comes amid a growing scandal involving hotels’ use of unhoused refugees to replace workers during recent strikes. As the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday, subcontracted workers, many of whom are unhoused refugees staying in shelters on Skid Row, were brought in to replace unionized workers during the strikes. Some of the workers were sent to California on buses from Texas as part of Texas Governor Abbot’s publicity stunts. The subcontracted workers have since alleged that they were exploited while workers in the hotels, with some reporting they were deprived of their legally required meal and rest breaks and were paid in hand-written checks with no explanation of their hourly wage or hours worked. District Attorney George Gascon announced yesterday he would be conducting an investigation.
While most hotels operated by large chains have remained intransigent in response to workers’ demands for living wages, there have been some breakthroughs. Most recently, the Loews Hollywood Hotel reached a tentative agreement with its workers, making it the third hotel to do so, following the lead of the Biltmore Los Angeles and Westin Bonaventure.