PRESS RELEASE: UNITE HERE Local 11 Files Federal Labor Charge Against Holiday Inn LAX, Alleging that Manager Unlawfully Prohibited Unhoused Refugee From Talking About Their Labor Conditions

Los Angeles, Calif. – After District Attorney George Gascon and the California Labor Commissioner announced a joint investigation into the alleged exploitation of unhoused refugees by hotels across Los Angeles County, UNITE HERE Local 11 has filed a federal unfair labor practice charge alleging that a Holiday Inn LAX manager warned the same unhoused workers not to tell anyone about their pay or other working conditions.

The charge follows the publication of an in-depth article by the Los Angeles Times reporting that several prominent hotels, or agencies acting on their behalf, had brought in unhoused refugees from Venezuela and Colombia to replace their own workers during recent strikes. The article reported that the Los Angeles district attorney was concerned about “potential wage theft and violations of child labor law.” The article also featured interviews and photographs of several of these unhoused workers.

The Los Angeles Times reported that “one migrant worker, a 17-year-old student at Belmont High School who requested anonymity, said he skipped two days of school to clean rooms at the Holiday Inn LAX.” The article stated: “He and his mother, who secured work as a housekeeper at the Holiday Inn, received payment via banking app Zelle from an agency called Arya Staffing Services Inc. Aimbridge Hospitality did not respond to questions about whether staffing agencies it used had secured appropriate permits to employ minors.”

On October 25, 2023, just two days after this article was published, the same agency or agencies brought in workers from the same Skid Row shelter to work at Holiday Inn LAX. As the labor charge alleges, when the agency workers arrived at the hotel, a high-level manager greeted them and immediately warned them not to talk to anyone who was asking about their working conditions. The labor charge, which is pending investigation, alleges that this constituted an implied threat in violation of federal labor law and an unlawful prohibition against workers’ exercise of federally protected rights.

“We know that it is not easy for anyone to speak out about their working conditions–but it is even more difficult for recent migrants fleeing difficult situations who depend on these precarious jobs for their and their families’ survival,” said Ada Briceno, co-president of Local 11. “These workers showed unbelievable bravery when they chose to speak publicly about what they experienced working in hotels. We want all immigrant workers to know that it is their right to be paid and treated fairly, and it is their right to speak out when they are not.”

The Holiday Inn LAX is operated by Aimbridge Hospitality, a subsidiary of Advent International. Workers at a dozen Aimbridge-operated hotels in Southern California have walked out on strike in recent months. The workers are demanding living wages that will allow them to live in the communities where they work. Workers at one of these Aimbridge-operated properties, the San Pedro Doubletree hotel, have also filed a class action lawsuit alleging that their employer failed to provide statutorily required protections against sexual assault.

A white banner outside the DoubleTree San Pedro hotel

San Pedro Housekeepers File Class Action Suit Against DoubleTree Alleging Violations of LA Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance

LOS ANGELES—Today, a longtime housekeeper at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel San Pedro filed a class action lawsuit against the hotel alleging violations of the Los Angeles Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance, which the City of Los Angeles adopted in June 2022. While similar ordinances have passed in Irvine, Seattle, Oakland, Santa Monica, Emeryville, Glendale, West Hollywood, and Long Beach, this is the first lawsuit to be brought under the Los Angeles Ordinance. The workers are represented by Lauren Teukolsky of Teukolsky Law and Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.

The ordinance protects Los Angeles hotel workers against the risk of sexual assault by implementing panic buttons and other measures, and it guarantees housekeepers fair compensation when their workloads exceed prescribed limits.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that even after DoubleTree housekeepers reported several violations out of concern for their wellbeing, the hotel failed to comply with the safety provisions of the ordinance, which went into effect in August 2022. The lawsuit alleges that the DoubleTree failed to provide functioning panic buttons, failed to hire 24-hour security to respond to panic button calls, delayed for months to post the required notice of the ordinance on guest room and restroom doors, and failed to provide adequate training to workers.

Plaintiff Bethsabe Alvarez, who has worked as a housekeeper at the DoubleTree for more than 15 years, said, “It is frustrating that my coworkers and I fought so hard to pass this law for our own safety as housekeepers, but it’s been over a year and we still don’t have full-time security or working panic buttons. We do not feel valued as human beings.”

Lauren Teukolsky, who represents the workers, adds, “We hope this lawsuit sends a message to all Los Angeles hotels that they are required to comply with the ordinance immediately. Housekeepers should not have to risk their own personal safety for a paycheck.”