Striking hotel workers and their supporters, numbering in the thousands, marched through downtown Los Angeles Wednesday in the union’s largest single-day labor action since rotating work stoppages began in early July.
Participants in the march organized by Unite Here Local 11 gathered Wednesday morning at Pershing Square, and the crowd quickly swelled, with many people being dropped off by buses. In a statement Tuesday, union officials said the march would include workers from 50 hotels, although it was unclear exactly how many different hotels were actually impacted.
Since the walkouts began on July 2, the union has been staging strikes on a revolving basis, a handful of hotels at a time, so Wednesday’s action appeared to be the most widespread demonstration to date.
The union’s Maria Hernandez said Tuesday that Unite Here workers were on strike this week at the Pasadena Hilton; the Hyatt Place Pasadena; the DoubleTree San Pedro; the Hotel Maya in Long Beach; and the Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point.
Hotel officials have said the hotels remain open, with management and other nonunion staff filling in. District Attorney George Gascón announced this week his office was investigating allegations that some hotels were possibly violating wage or child labor laws by hiring homeless migrants, including some who recently arrived in the area on buses from Texas.
After rallying in Pershing Square on Wednesday morning, the march participants began making their way through the streets of downtown. Many were carrying signs, blowing horns, chanting or even playing musical instruments.
The crowd slowly made its way to L.A. Live, adjacent to Crypto.com Arena, and rallied outside the Marriott hotel at the entertainment complex.
There were no immediate reports of any arrests, although motorists were forced to divert away from the expansive march, which stretched for blocks at a time.
Representatives for the Coordinated Bargaining Group, which represents local hotels, have accused the union of being inflexible in its demands.
In a statement released Tuesday, Keith Grossman, spokesman for CBG, said the current round of work stoppages is “misguided and hurts employees who are expressing their displeasure with Unite Here Local 11’s tactics.”
“The union is using scare tactics by falsely claiming the CBG’s proposal will destroy employees’ health care,” Grossman said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Our employees’ health care is safe. The CBG’s Oct. 19 proposal provides that employees’ Healthcare Fund stays in great financial shape and insures that employees’ affordable quality health care continues through the life of the new agreement. Specifically, on Oct. 19, the CBG significantly increased its health care proposal by offering up to an additional $1 of contributions if the Health Fund’s Actuary determines it’s needed.”
The CBG proposal on Oct. 19 included an immediate $2.50 wage increase, a $4 increase in the first nine months, $9 in wage increases over a six- year term for most L.A. hotels, $8.05 in wage increases for Orange County, LAX and Long Beach hotels, and 50 cents for pension contributions, Grossman said.
“Unfortunately, the union remains unwilling to engage in actual good- faith negotiations,” Grossman said. “Its inflexibility and insistence on all its demands will not end this labor dispute or get employees what they are asking for — immediate wage increases and a new contract. Instead, the union appears to want to continue to hurt Los Angeles and negatively impact our employees by continuing its Los Angeles boycott and its intermittent work stoppages.”
Unite Here Local 11 represents some 15,000 workers employed at about 60 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Its members include cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front desk agents.
According to a union statement, Wednesday’s rally was called 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,” the union statement said.
“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.”
Members of the Unite Here initially walked off the job on July 2. That first wave of picketing targeted 21 hotels involved in contract negotiations with the union. The second wave began July 10, targeting a total of 12 hotels.
The union has reached deals with some hotels, however. In September, the Millennium Biltmore reached a tentative agreement with striking workers, following a labor deal with the operators of the Westin Bonaventure hotel downtown. More recently, according to the union, the Loews Hollywood Hotel reached a tentative deal with its workers. On Wednesday night, the union announced it had reached a tentative contract agreement with the Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point.
Earlier Wednesday, officials with Hotel Maya in Long Beach — which is currently being picketed by the union — said they have been waiting for the union to return to the bargaining table to discuss a separate contract with the facility, saying it is not part of the Coordinated Bargaining Group representing other hotels. The hotel contends it has made a contract offer to the union, which has not responded.
“Hotel Maya has requested multiple times for the union to meet and negotiate for our employees and discuss our proposal, yet the union has refused to meet and has not responded officially to our proposal,” hotel General Manager Greg Guthrie said in a statement. “Unite Here Local 11 instead is apparently making our employees wait and fight for the coordinated group of Downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, LAX and Santa Monica hotels, a group Hotel Maya is not even a part of. Unite Here Local 11 has chosen to have Hotel Maya employees march for and strike for other hotels contracts instead of meeting to negotiate for their own jobs and hotel.”