Thousands of hotel workers across Southern California walked off the job and remained on strike Monday during the busy Fourth of July holiday week to demand higher wages, pre-pandemic staffing, better medical insurance and long term benefits.
Three of the hotels that could be targeted by the strike are in Long Beach: Hotel Maya, Hyatt Regency Long Beach and Centric Long Beach, but picket lines had not materialized in the city as of the morning.
Representatives of the local hotels said in statements Monday that operations had not been disrupted by Unite Here Local 11’s strike announcement.
The status of negotiations was unclear at the Hyatt and Centric Long Beach, which agreed in April to raise pay by $4 an hour, from $22 to $25, for non-tipped positions. That six-month contract also granted employees free family health insurance and guarantees that the hotel will be staffed at pre-pandemic levels.
Representatives of Unite Here Local 11 couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Monday, but in April they praised the deal made with the two Long Beach hotels, saying they hoped that it would set the industry standard.
A statement from the Hotel Maya, meanwhile, said union employees remained on the job Monday. In the event that a strike materializes, the hotel will remain open with non-union staff and management, according to a statement from Greg Guthrie, general manager of Hotel Maya.
Officials at all three Long Beach hotels said they remain willing to continue negotiations with the union.
Sunday’s announcement of a strike came the day after the contract expired between Unite Here Local 11 and 65 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
On June 8, 96% of the union’s members approved a strike authorization, which included the three Long Beach hotels.
The union, which represents some 15,000 workers in Southern California, announced on Friday that its members could strike at any moment during the holiday weekend, disrupting one of the busiest weekends for the tourism industry.
While Long Beach remained quiet, workers in Los Angeles began picketing early Monday morning, with many marching on sidewalks in front of hotels, waving signs, chanting and banging drums, according to footage from the scene.
Workers, including cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellhops and front desk agents, earn $20 to $25 an hour. The union is demanding an immediate $5 an hour raise and an additional $3 an hour in the following years of the contract.
In the face of a dire housing crisis, the union also seeks to create a hospitality workforce housing fund. Swaths of those working in Los Angeles County say they are commuting from more affordable areas like Apple Valley, Palmdale, California City and Victorville.
“Our members were devastated first by the pandemic, and now by the greed of their bosses,” Unite Here Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen said in a statement put out by the union. “The industry got bailouts while we got cuts. Now, the hotel negotiators decided to take a four-day holiday instead of negotiating. Shameful.”
Attorney Keith Grossman of Hirschfeld Kraemer, one of two firms representing the hotel coalition, told the New York Times that the hotels have offered raises of $2.50 an hour in the first 12 months and $6.25 over four years. He said housekeepers at unionized hotels in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles, who currently make $25 per hour, would get a 10% wage increase in 2024 and make more than $31 per hour by January 2027.
“If there is a strike, it will occur because the union is determined to have one,” Grossman told The New York Times.
City News Service contributed to this report.