Thousands of hotel workers in the LA area are on strike for higher wages

Several thousand hotel workers in greater Los Angeles went on strike Sunday over pay and staffing, in one of the largest hotel work stoppages in the region’s history.

The strike, which affects a number of major hotels in Southern California, puts a strain on hotels during the Fourth of July weekend and since the area hosts a large convention that typically draws tens of thousands.

A core issue is compensation. The rising cost of living, especially housing, is pushing hospitality workers to shift hours away from where they work, said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, the union that represents the hospitality workers.

“This is a fight about housing and who can afford to live in LA and who can’t,” he told The Washington Post ahead of the walkout. – Housing costs are skyrocketing [Los Angeles] to unknown heights.”

In addition to the wage increases, the union is negotiating guaranteed staffing levels, automatic digital tipping and the continuation of its strong health insurance plan and pension program, Petersen said.

When the union’s contract expired Saturday, the only hotel where workers and management could reach a tentative agreement in time to avert a strike was the Westin Bonaventure, whose employees total about 600.

The hotels unable to reach an agreement include the JW Marriott, Millennium Biltmore, Fairmont Miramar and Sheraton Universal, a union spokesman said.

The strike coincides with Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which is sold out this year and runs Saturday through Tuesday. The expo typically draws more than 100,000 attendees, according to the website.

The Hotel Association of Los Angeles assured Thursday that “the hotel community will continue to provide excellent service by welcoming guests to the Los Angeles area as we always do” in the event of a strike. It added that hotels have been “engaged in good faith collective bargaining” with the union.

Diana Rios Sanchez, a supervisor at the InterContinental in downtown Los Angeles, said she is on strike because she cannot afford more than a one-bedroom apartment in the area for herself and her three children.

“I’m going on strike because the pay we’re getting is not what we deserve,” said Rios Sanchez, 38, who earns $26.20 an hour. “In California, they’re building more and more hotels, which increases our rent.”

Southern California has seen a number of labor actions recently, including an ongoing writers’ strike in Hollywood that began in early May. Meanwhile, actors and producers are locked in negotiations, agreeing on Friday to extend the actors’ union contract – which was set to expire this weekend – until July 12 to avert a strike. And in late June, about 500 Los Angeles Dodger Stadium workers were poised to strike but pulled out after they reached an agreement.

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