Militant Journalism

Los Angeles hospitality workers continue the fight for better wages

For over eight months, workers at three major Los Angeles hotels have been working without a contract. Last December, unionized workers in over 20 Los Angeles hotels voted 96 percent to authorize a strike. Since then, the workers and their union, Unite Here Local 11, have secured desirable contracts in 26 hotels.

However, negotiations with Luxe Rodeo Drive, Sportsmen’s Lodge, and The LINE Hotel in Los Angeles have been stalled over management failures to promise better health care benifits, pensions, panic buttons, and a $25 hourly wage for their workers.

Despite working at some of the most renowned hotels in Los Angeles, many of the employees struggle to support their families and keep up with the ever-increasing rents and cost of living in Los Angeles. The average housekeeper at LINE Hotel makes around $18.90 an hour. Most of these workers have children and families depending on them, but in order to afford the average two-bedroom apartment in LA, workers would need to make $32.68 an hour.

Most of what these workers are fighting for, like a $25-an-hour wage, are already included in the contracts of the hotels the union was able to settle with. In the case of these three luxury hotels, workers are still being met with pushback.

In retaliation against eight months of protracted negotiations, Unite Here Local 11, in coalition with other unions and community organizations, have continuously held rallies and pickets at these three hotels to call for a fair contract.

Liberation News joined a recent demonstration at the LINE Hotel in Los Angeles, where we spoke to Unite Here union organizer and hospitality worker Jose Calderon, representing the housekeepers, bell workers, and other staff ready to strike at the LINE. He told us: “We have to win a fair contract, this is a multimillionaire company … but they won’t give fair wages to the workers who keep their hotel running. … We want a fair contract, we have have been here since November, but we never imagined that this fight would be so long.”

Liberation News spoke to Calderon on Aug. 1, as over 200 workers (some from other hotels who have recently taken part in labor actions), union organizers, and community supporters picketed outside the hotel, whose facade looks into Los Angeles’ busy Wilshire Boulevard. For over two hours, the streets were filled with chants, the sound of drums, and demands for a fair contract, dignity at work, and a living wage, ending with a rally and pledges to keep struggling. A worker who stayed in the hotel on his shift told Liberation News that the protest was audible for all the guests and workers in the hotel.

The LINE’s current administrators, the Sydell Group, annually make $250 million in revenue, but instead of directing a small portion of that money towards its workers, it routinely donates thousands to Democratic Party political campaigns. The companies that run the other two hotels withholding a contract likewise rake in millions annually.

Union-busting tactics

The LINE, in particular, has also engaged in union-busting tactics by pulling workers aside in groups and discouraging them to work with their union. Earlier this year, Unite Here was also targeted by an online anti-union campaign spearheaded by the right-wing and industry-funded Center for Union Facts.

Despite these challenges, Unite Here has consistently mobilized its rank and file to participate in a pressure campaign against the hotels. During even the worst weather conditions, workers have continued to demonstrate outside their hotels, creating long pickets, making noise, and carrying placards demanding a livable wage.

Many other unions have also joined in solidarity with these actions. Earlier this year, during the Los Angeles teachers’ strike, United Teachers of Los Angeles held a joint picket at The LINE Hotel with hundreds of workers and protesters. When referencing the importance of constructing and maintaining solidarity with other unions, Unite Here organizer Marie Hernadez told Liberation News, “None of us are done until all of us have won.”


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