Hospitality workers demand Los Angeles leaders include them in the decision-making process
Los Angeles: Today, UNITE HERE Local 11 released a report outlining its vision for what the 2028 Olympic Games could look like for workers and residents of Los Angeles as the city council is set to vote in the coming weeks on a games agreement.
The city plans to enter into the Olympic Games Agreement with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and LA28, the private nonprofit responsible for the 2028 Games, by November 1. Despite multiple public records requests by UNITE HERE Local 11, no details of what is actually in the agreement have been made public.
The 32,000 members of UNITE HERE Local 11 assert that the professional tourism workers who will make these events successful must be among those who benefit from these decisions. The Olympics Games must succeed in three key areas:
Good hospitality jobs: For the Olympics to benefit our communities, we need to ensure that the workers whose labor will make the Games possible have good, family-sustaining jobs.
“The stadiums and event centers that host the Olympic athletes and guests are our stadiums, and they need to provide people with good jobs that give us a fighting chance for a better life,” said Ana Diaz, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 and food service worker at Banc of California Stadium.
Hiring and retention of Black workers: There must be a commitment to ensuring that more Black workers—who have historically been excluded from the hospitality industry and its best positions—are hired and retained.
“The Olympics can make it harder for African Americans in the hospitality industry, or it can be an opportunity to protect existing Black workers’ jobs and create a pipeline for good jobs for Black workers in Los Angeles,” said Chris Smith, a bartender at SoFi Stadium and the Anaheim Convention Center.
End the housing crisis: With Los Angeles facing an unprecedented housing crisis, the Olympics can exacerbate this problem, by converting housing into short-term rentals (STRs) through its official partnership with Airbnb, or it can protect existing renters and meaningfully contribute to affordable housing production.
“The longer I’ve lived in LA, the more expensive it has become. I lived on the West Side for many years but because of how expensive rent is, my daughter and I have had to move further and further away from LAX. Now I live in Compton in a converted garage with no kitchen. I spend almost three hours every day getting to and from work because I rely on public transportation. People like me who are the backbone of the airport deserve to be able to afford to live near where we work,” said Laura Banuet, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 and food service worker at LAX since 2016.
Similar agreements for past Olympics have contained detailed descriptions of each entity’s obligations, including police budgets and the rights of corporate sponsors. As outlined in Local 11’s report, the Olympics in London, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo caused gentrification and further displaced thousands of residents from their homes to make way for the Games.
“The decision making must not only be transparent, but we need to be at the table. The Olympic Games are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our industry and our city. If the Olympics are to benefit our communities, the workers whose labor will make the Games possible must have family-sustaining jobs,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.
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Those who live near and work at the airport say development must better address job quality, healthcare, pollution, and displacement
LOS ANGELES–Dozens of LAX airport workers from in-terminal concessions and retail, guest services, and airline catering demonstrated against airport expansion Thursday as the Board of Airport Commissioners voted to certify an environmental report that moves the development process forward.
Los Angeles World Airports and the Los Angeles City Council are seeking to rapidly expand LAX amid projected ongoing growth in air traffic and infrastructure needed to host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
But thousands of workers throughout the airport—members of UNITE HERE Local 11 working in food service and retail positions and of SEIU-USWW working in janitorial and passenger services—point to issues that are still not addressed.
“Even though I work at LAX, I will fight this airport expansion if it’s just going to get us more of the same,” said Rosio Narez, a member of UNITE HERE Local 11 who lives in Inglewood. “Almost everyone in my family has asthma, and I was hospitalized for my asthma as a kid. Increased air traffic will increase air pollution and make families like mine more vulnerable to respiratory diseases. My entire family got COVID, and the communities around the airport have been some of the hardest-hit. We can’t ignore these issues.”
“I oppose this expansion because the airport has not done enough to ensure that we— the people who work at LAX—can get by,” said Laura Banuett, who has worked as a fast food attendant at the airport since 2016. “Rent is so expensive. I’ve had to move further and further away and now live in Compton, raising my daughter on my own while living in a converted garage with no bathroom and no kitchen. I spend almost three hours on public transportation every day to get to and from work. It can’t keep going on like this.”
“Southern California hospitality and service workers are moving from a devastating fight to stay healthy and housed during the pandemic to preparing for the world’s largest tourism events,” said Robin Rodriguez, organizing director at UNITE HERE Local 11. “City leaders face a series of votes that will affect the everyday lives of these families for decades. We want their decisions—about job quality, access to affordable healthcare, pollution, and noise—to demonstrate the value of our work as ‘essential’ in a time of economic growth as well as in a time of crisis.”
The LAX Airfield and Terminal Modernization is a massive project to construct Concourse 0 and Terminal 9, add more than two dozen gates, and reconfigure runways and taxiways, among other changes.
Data from LAWA demonstrates that 78% of domestic passenger traffic recovered in July 2021 compared to July 2019—the strongest performance since the pandemic began.
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.
Six councilmembers commit to vote NO on vacation rental loophole
Los Angeles, CA: In a show of unity and commitment, five Los Angeles city councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, Nithya Raman, and Monica Rodriguez held a press conference to unveil steps to protect housing for thousands of Angelenos by stronger enforcement of the city’s Home-sharing ordinance.
In an effort to further enforce the city’s strong home-sharing ordinance, Councilmembers Blumenfield, Koretz, and Raman, all filed separate motions with City Planning and Land Use Management recently.
“The City’s home sharing program has pulled thousands of much-needed housing units off the market, adding to our already disastrous homeless problem and has been beset by non-compliance, criminal activity and the destruction of once quiet single-family neighborhoods” said Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz of the Fifth District. “If we’re going to take home sharing and its many challenges seriously, we need to provide the Planning Department with the resources necessary to effectively enforce the ordinance, and this needs to be done before we start digging a deeper hole with a vacation rentals program. We currently require primary residency for a reason. What possible excuse is there for this change?”
Elected officials pledged to vote “NO” on a Vacation Rental Loophole currently being considered, warning that the passage of it would take 14,000 homes off the market and convert them into short-term rental units and profoundly complicate the enforcement of short-term rental regulations in place. It would also create dire consequences for LA’s housing market with poor communities of color being the most affected. The loophole is expected to come to a vote in the coming weeks.
“If the City is struggling to enforce the home-sharing ordinance we already have on the books, what makes us think we’re ready to put in place a new vacation rental ordinance that, even when properly enforced, would allow almost 15,000 additional units to be taken off the rental market and turned into Airbnbs,” said Councilmember Raman. “I pledge to vote NO on the Vacation Rental Loophole currently being considered.”
“The adopted short term rental ordinance was explicitly written to limit participation to primary residences in order to protect our critical housing stock. We cannot reopen that loophole in the midst of a housing crisis. Housing needs to be protected for those who live and work in Los Angeles,” said Councilwoman Rodriguez
“We need to protect our housing stock and ensure that we’re maximizing the amount of units available for Angelenos; it’s imperative that we don’t allow ‘vacation rentals’ to become a loophole that decimates the protections in the short term rental legalization policy we adopted a few short years ago.” said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. “Right now, there are thousands of illegal short-term rentals available on various platforms throughout the city. We must strengthen enforcement and reject adding loopholes that will lead to more expensive housing.”
Councilmember Bonin was one of the main sponsors of the original home-sharing ordinance passed in 2018 to address an extreme shortage of affordable housing and the negative effects of short-term rentals on long-term housing markets. The Ordinance strictly limits home sharing to primary residences and requires “hosts” of short-term rentals to register for a permit. It also prohibits “host platforms” from processing bookings for listings without a valid City Home-Sharing registration number.
“We need to put a stake in the heart of this harmful vacation rental proposal, which would take thousands of units off the rental market in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin. “The proposed vacation rental ordinance would shred any hope of enforcing existing short-term rental rules and would do real harm.”
The event came as housing advocates, working Angelinos and UNITE HERE Local 11 increased their calls for stricter enforcement of the HSO and demand that council reject the proposed VRO.
“When COVID hit I lost my job and my way of life. As a single mother I could not afford to pay the rent of a one-bedroom apartment and was forced to move farther and farther away from my job. I currently live in a small garage where I am barely getting by and live-in fear of becoming homeless every day,” said Clara Meza, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 who has worked as a food prep cook at Sky Chef’s for 36 years.
Although unable to attend in person, Councilmember De Leon said in a statement, “The fact that an eviction moratorium is the only thing preventing many Angelenos from living on the street is a clarion call for all of us to focus on increasing the number of permanently available units at any given time. In a moment like this, anything that detracts from that, like the vacation rental ordinance, should be off the table,” said Councilmember De Leon.
U.S Senator Alex Padilla Announces Support for Workers Boycotting Chateau Marmont
Hollywood Hotel Faces Lawsuits Alleging Sexual Harassment and Race Discrimination by Former Employees
Los Angeles, CA: U.S Senator Alex Padilla (CA) has become the first United States Senator to announce his support for the workers behind the growing boycott of the famed Chateau Marmont.
“As the son of a cook and UNITE HERE Local 11 member, I witnessed firsthand how hard my parents had to work to get ahead. Hospitality workers like those at the Chateau Marmont are the backbone of our state’s economy. I stand alongside the workers as they fight for the dignity and respect they deserve,” said U.S Senator Alex Padilla.
The boycott was launched by workers, UNITE HERE Local 11 and community allies. The boycott calls on the hotel to demonstrate a commitment to respecting workers’ years of service by rehiring them in accordance with their legal rights and ensuring that all workers—regardless of their race, sex, or background—feel treated with dignity and respect. In May, the California Democratic Party voted to boycott the Chateau Marmont at their annual convention.
After the Chateau Marmont fired over 200 workers in March 2020 because of the pandemic, multiple workers came forward to share experiences of mistreatment, abuse, and a racially stratified workplace.
“As a Latino cook in the back of the house I felt like it was nearly impossible for me or my coworkers to aspire to higher-paid positions. The better paid positions usually went to people that did not look like me.” said Pedro Diaz, cook for 16 years at the Chateau Marmont. “I felt invisible.”
Former workers Thomasina Gross and April Blackwell, both African American women, have spoken out and filed discrimination lawsuits against the Chateau Marmont. The company has since forced their cases into a secretive private arbitration system. They have called on the company to allow their cases to proceed in the public court system and more broadly called for a more fair and equitable workplace.
“I want hotel management to understand that it’s not acceptable to let their workers be harassed and threatened by guests,” said April Blackwell, former night auditor.
The boycott has also garnered support from those in Hollywood like Jane Fonda, Aaron Sorkin, and Spike Lee. In late August, Paramount Plus pulled filming of its miniseries The Offer to stand with workers and most recently multiple Emmy-nominees Issa Rae, Robin Thede, and Samira Wiley also pledged to boycott.