In Southern California, a historic strike by thousands of hotel workers has commenced, aiming for increased wages and improved benefits. Unite Here Local 11, representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in the region, has organized the strike, affecting approximately 15,000 workers across Los Angeles and Orange counties. Employees from various roles, including cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen, and front desk agents, have walked off the job at more than a dozen hotels, including major chains like Marriott and Hilton. The strike, which began on Sunday, coincides with the busy tourist season and the Fourth of July extended holiday weekend.
The workers are seeking contract negotiations for higher wages, enhanced healthcare benefits, and stronger workplace protections. Their contracts had expired at midnight on Friday at more than 60 hotels, prompting the demand for fair treatment. The union has been negotiating a new contract since April and obtained a 96% vote in favor of authorizing the strike. Among their demands are a $5 increase in hourly wages, affordable family healthcare, higher pension contributions, and reduced workloads.
▶️ Thousands of hotel workers in Los Angeles, California, went on strike Sunday morning as they pushed for better wages and benefits, kicking off what was expected to be one of the largest U.S. hotel workers strikes in recent history.
— Voice of America (@VOANews) July 2, 2023
The strike comes as a response to the challenges faced by workers in the hospitality industry, particularly in Southern California, where the cost of living has surged. The union also seeks to establish a “hospitality workforce housing fund” to assist workers in coping with the high living costs in the area. Many union members are forced to commute for hours due to the unaffordability of living near their workplaces.
While the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, the largest hotel in Los Angeles, reached a historic agreement with its workers prior to the strike, negotiations with other hotels have hit an impasse. Hotels such as the JW Marriott, Ritz Carlton LA Live, Beverly Hilton, Fairmont Miramar, and Anaheim Hilton have been accused of delaying negotiations, with the union claiming that their demands have not been adequately addressed. The hotels, on the other hand, argue that the union has been unwilling to engage in productive negotiations. The strike is expected to last several days, and participating hotels have asserted their commitment to providing services to guests during this period.
The labor struggle among hotel workers is occurring amidst a peak in tourism levels in Los Angeles since the COVID-19 pandemic. With the city experiencing a robust recovery, the strike coincides with the Fourth of July weekend, a time when tourists typically flock to Southern California. Additionally, the strike coincides with the Anime Expo, a popular convention attracting visitors from around the world, held at the LA Convention Center, further impacting the hospitality sector.
These labor fights reflect broader concerns about workers’ rights violations and the high cost of living in California. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has highlighted the shortage of affordable rental homes for extremely low-income households across the state, with many households spending over half of their income on housing. Similar labor disputes have recently emerged, including the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike, which demands better pay and work protections, and the West Coast dockworkers’ disruptions over wage disagreements.