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Hotel Union Strike Ends, More Could Follow

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By Jorge Casuso

July 5, 2023 -- Several thousand hotel workers, including those at five Santa Monica hotels, returned to work on Wednesday after what union officials warn is "just the first wave of strikes and disruption."

The striking employees at 18 Los Angeles and Orange county hotels were replaced by temporary workers during the three-day walkout that began Sunday, two days after the union contracts expired at 60 area hotels.

Sunday's walkout, which Local 11 officials billed as "the largest multi-hotel strike in the union’s history," came during the Independence Day break, when a record number of Americans were expected to travel.

“This walkout was the first of many actions that may come this summer by workers at hotels across Southern California, and it is only one tool in our toolbox," said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.

"We have put the industry on notice that the workers have suffered enough,” Petersen said.

Hotel representatives said they have been preparing for the strikes since union workers voted overwhelming a month ago to authorize a walkout after contract negotiations stalled.

“We welcome our employees back to work and the end of the work stoppage at those hotels," said Keith Grossman, the lead spokesperson for the Coordinated Bargaining Group consisting of 44 LA and Orange County Hotels.

"If the Union takes employees out at other hotels, those hotels are well prepared to service guests," Grossman said.

"We are ready to meet and hope Union leaders can focus on our employees and reaching a settlement and get back to the bargaining table.“

Negotiations, which began more than two months ago, stalled over disagreements over the size of salary increases and improved healthcare and pension benefits.

The union is seeking an immediate $5 an hour raise for the workers -- who earn between $20 and $25 an hour -- with an additional $3 an hour in subsequent years of the contract.

They also are seeking improved healthcare and pension benefits and the creation of a housing fund for employees, among other demands ("Workers Strike at 5 Santa Monica Hotels," July 4, 2023).

The hotel bargaining group has offered to increase the hourly wage by $2.50 the first year and $6.25 over 4 years and guaranteed that current healthcare and pension benefits will continue.

The group, however, has balked at union demands they say include imposing a new tax on guests and housing the homeless at hotels.

Union officials point to the Westin Bonaventure, LA's biggest hotel, which last week agreed to the higher wages for the workers, who include cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front desk agents.

"Now it is time for the other corporations to follow suit," union officials said. "This is just the beginning."

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