Strike by hotel workers in Los Angeles interrupts holiday weekend

Strike by hotel workers in Los Angeles interrupts holiday weekend | ltc-a

Inside the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, a towering luxury hotel with a rooftop pool and stunning city views, Jason Hernandez said Monday things looked normal. The housekeepers had cleaned his room. The lobby was tidy, if a little quiet.

It wasn’t until he stepped outside and encountered metal security barricades in front of the hotel doors and scores of people marching, singing and beating drums that it became clear his holiday plans had collided with a major strike by thousands of factory workers. hotel.

Some 15,000 housekeepers, cooks and receptionists across the region quit their jobs over the weekend, demanding higher pay and better benefits. The strike, which began on Sunday, coincided with a long Fourth of July holiday weekend when thousands of visitors arrived for conventions, weddings and parties.

« Inside, you kind of forget, » said Mr. Hernandez, 26, who was in town for Anime Expo, a celebration of Japanese animation, and dressed like a League of Legends character in a long brown thong. with a teal jewel on her forehead. « So it’s like, Oh my god, all these crazy things are happening. »

Though Mr. Hernandez and his friends had decided to splurge on a hotel room for the expo, which drew tens of thousands of fans to downtown Los Angeles, he said he wasn’t bothered by the commotion.

« I’m for the cause, so I’m not sorry at all, » said Mr. Hernandez, a public school teacher in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. “It’s hard to live, in general. Everything is going swimmingly.

This is a view that the leaders of the union representing the workers, Unite Here Local 11, believe is resonating widely – including among hotel guests and holidaymakers – in a region where workers say pay has not kept up. with rents or the price of gas and groceries.

« The community’s support is overwhelming, » said Kurt Petersen, co-president of the union. « Workers who are paid a living wage will make this city better. »

In front of several large downtown hotels on Monday morning, crowds of workers in red T-shirts reading « En Huelga » or « On Strike » mingled with groups of convention-goers wearing a variety of colorful wigs, mini dresses, or wizard’s robes .

Oscar Orellana, 30, stopped in the shadow of the InterContinental and waved to one of the drivers who honked his horn as he passed.

For six years, Mr. Orellana worked in the hotel housekeeping department, where he makes sure linen is provided on every floor. His parents also worked for a long time in hotel cleaning; his father was picketing at a nearby Ritz-Carlton, he said.

« I used to see my parents and they loved their jobs, which made me want to get into the hotel business and I love my job, » she said. But her three-hour round trip from Long Beach, about 25 miles away, coupled with her heavier workload and inability to comfortably afford the occasional sweet treat for her 4-year-old, has made it ‘impossible for us to be in there working – that’s why we’re out here on strike,’ he said.

Out west, at Santa Monica’s upscale Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, dozens of workers staked out the manicured flowery hedges that line the property. Some guests have said that the hotel seemed to perform well overall, but they were frustrated with minor inconveniences — like a shortage of clean towels — at such an expensive property. They also felt trapped in an awkward social position during a time when they just wanted to relax.

« I’m a union worker, so I can sympathize if they don’t get fair wages, » said John Smith, 38, who was visiting with his wife from San Bernardino.

But, he added, « we’re trying to enjoy the holiday – I’ve taken two days off for this. »

Just outside the property, on a street corner, the newlyweds posed for photos in an embrace. A few meters away from them, striking workers dressed in bright red could be seen marching and waving placards above their heads.

Hotel management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Most hotels have emergency staffing plans and expect to be able to serve guests largely uninterrupted, said Pete Hillan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Hotel Association. Big hotel chains, for example, have either hired employees from other properties unaffected by the strike or asked managers to step in, he added.

In the long run, a high-profile walkout over a major holiday weekend could diminish Los Angeles’ reputation as a destination for convention planners, business travelers and tourists, he said.

« Why would they come to Los Angeles? » he asked her. « People vote with their feet. »

The hotel workers’ strike is just the latest high-profile industrial action in what California leaders have agreed to call a « hot workers’ summer, » as struggles to afford sky-high living costs have generated unusual levels of solidarity between workers in diverse industries, from public school aides to dock workers to Hollywood screenwriters.

Truck drivers and nurses showed up on picket lines outside Hollywood studios, where screenwriters have been on strike since May. This week, the leaders of the Writers Guild of America, the union representing screenwriters, he joined the hotel workers in their protest.

Even elected officials in Los Angeles – a Democratic stronghold where unions have amassed significant political clout over decades – have also been eager to show their support for the striking workers.

Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, On Sunday, he picketed with workers at a hotel near Universal Studios Hollywood.

« They should be able to earn a decent living, decent wages, » Schiff told reporters. « I am proud to be here and stand side by side with my brothers and sisters in labor. »

The union demanded that hourly wages, now $20 and $25 for housekeepers, immediately increase by $5, followed by a $3 increase in each subsequent year of a three-year contract.

Hotel industry officials said many of the union’s other demands — including an extra fee for guests in union hotels that would go toward a workers’ housing fund — were attempts to shoulder the costs of the housing crisis on hotel operators. of the region.

Keith Grossman, spokesman for a group of more than 40 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties that are negotiating with the union, said, « Based on the union’s actions, it is clear that the union is not focused on the interests of our employees. and its members and is instead focused on its political agenda”.

Mr. Grossman said hotels had offered to raise pay for housekeepers earning $25 an hour in Beverly Hills and downtown Los Angeles to more than $31 an hour by January 2027.

As the country heads into a hectic summer travel season, union leaders have declined to speculate whether the strike will last for days, weeks or months. But they said workers would continue to protest until contractual agreements were reached.

Kurtis Lee contributed report.