Thousands of hotel workers in Southern California launched a strike for higher pay and better benefits on Sunday, coinciding with the influx of tourists visiting the region for the Fourth of July holiday. The workers, represented by the union Unite Here Local 11, walked off the job demanding increased wages and improved benefits.
Frustration and Anger
The hotel employees, who have faced financial hardships during the pandemic, expressed frustration and anger over the inability to meet their rent and sustain their livelihoods in Los Angeles. Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, highlighted the significance of the timing, stating that the workers felt liberated to fight for their rights during the Fourth of July celebrations, a symbol of freedom.
In response, representatives for the hotels criticized the union, accusing them of not negotiating in good faith and intentionally disrupting operations. Keith Grossman, a spokesman for the coordinated bargaining group consisting of over 40 Los Angeles and Orange County hotels, emphasized that the hotels aimed to provide competitive wages, affordable healthcare, and pensions.
The strike for higher pay and better benefits is part of a larger wave of labor actions taking place in the second-largest city in the United States. Workers from various industries across Southern California have shown remarkable solidarity, uniting to demand better pay and working conditions. Dockworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach recently disrupted operations, while screenwriters have been picketing outside Hollywood studios for the past two months.
The widespread labor conflicts reflect the frustration felt by workers, particularly among the younger generation, who face rising costs of living and diminishing opportunities. Hugo Soto-Martinez, a Los Angeles City Council member and former organizer for Unite Here Local 11, noted that issues like homelessness and housing costs have become more tangible for people, driving their support for labor movements.
Southern California hotel workers go on strike for higher pay and better benefit
The timing of the hotel workers’ strike is crucial, coinciding with the peak of the summer tourism season. Labor leaders hope to leverage this momentum to draw attention to their cause. Last year, despite the pandemic, Los Angeles experienced a surge in tourism, with approximately 46 million visitors and $34.5 billion in total business sales, nearing the record set in 2019.
However, many hotel workers struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living. Diana Rios-Sanchez, a housekeeping supervisor at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, voiced her concerns about the inadequacy of her pay to sustain her family’s living expenses in the city. While workers tirelessly cater to tourists’ needs, they feel neglected and unappreciated.
Critics argue that increasing workers’ wages alone does not address the deeper systemic issues contributing to the exorbitant cost of living in California.
Negotiations between the union and the hotels have been ongoing since April, and a strike for higher pay and better benefits was authorized by members in June. Unite Here Local 11 has proposed an immediate $5 hourly wage increase for housekeepers, followed by $3 increments in subsequent years over a three-year contract.
Claims of Hotel Representatives
On the other hand, hotel representatives claim to have offered a raise for housekeepers, taking their current wage of $25 per hour in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles to over $31 per hour by January 2027.
While the strike for higher pay and better benefits continues for multiple days, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles managed to avoid a walkout by reaching a contract agreement with its workers. Agreements like these, made ahead of major events such as the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Olympics, aim to establish pay levels in preparation for the anticipated surge in tourism.
The Hotel Association of Los Angeles has assured visitors that the hotels will remain operational despite the strike. However, the determination of the workers and the magnitude of the labor movement signal a growing demand for fair treatment and improved working conditions in various sectors across Southern California.