Thousands of housekeepers, clerks, cooks and other hospitality staff returned to work Wednesday at hotels in the Los Angeles area after three days of picketing, but union leaders said more walkouts were likely in the coming days.
Why It Matters: The hotel strike is the latest in a wave of industrial action.
The hotel workers’ strike is the latest in a wave of industrial action by California employees in what labor leaders are calling a “hot summer of work.”
Hotel workers, school staff, Hollywood writers and dock workers have been picketing this year, saying they are struggling to pay their rent. The costs of gas, groceries and more have risen, they say, and their wages haven’t kept up.
Business groups say asking employers to bear the brunt of California’s housing crisis, especially acute in places like Los Angeles, is unfair.
Background: Hotel workers want multiple raises over three years.
As tourists, wedding guests and anime fans descended on the region for an extended weekend leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, thousands of workers at 19 hotels officially went on strike on Sunday.
Members of Unite Here Local 11, the union representing about 15,000 hotel workers in Southern California, authorized a strike last month as their contract expired. Kurt Petersen, the union’s co-president, said Thursday that although the initial pickets have returned to their jobs, thousands more union members are preparing to walk out at some of the 60 or so hotels where workers have voted to strike.
“We call it waves,” he said. “They’re really angry: They want to get a fair wage, and they want respect.”
Local 11 wants hourly wages, now $20 to $25 for housekeepers, to rise by $5 immediately, followed by a $3 increase in each subsequent year of a three-year contract. Union leaders say workers need such increases to pay for living expenses in Los Angeles, where housing is scarce and expensive. The union also called for hotels to impose a 7 percent fee on guests to help finance worker accommodations.
Hotel officials accused the union leaders of being more interested in a political statement than a deal.
Keith Grossman, a spokesman for more than 40 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange Counties that are bargaining with the union, said the employers offered to increase wages to more than $31 an hour, from $25 an hour, in Beverly Hills and downtown. Los Angeles by January 2027.
The group also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing that some of the union’s demands, including the 7 percent fee, are illegal and outside the scope of contract negotiations.
“Insisting that these provisions must be in any contract settlement and striking to include them is not only illegal, but also a real obstacle to reaching agreement on a contract,” Mr. Grossman said.
Mr. Petersen, the union co-chairman, called the claim “frivolous.” He said hotels already pay fees for amenities and other items and should prioritize making sure their employees can afford housing.
What’s next: More exits are planned.
Union leaders said workers at each hotel will decide whether to walk off the job. In the meantime, they said they plan to continue picketing outside hotels and hope travelers or event organizers will consider avoiding the properties involved in the current labor dispute.
Hotel industry officials said the protests could, in the long term, diminish Southern California’s reputation as a destination, with detrimental effects for hotel owners, operators and their employees.