November 4, 2023
From The Militant

LOS ANGELES — Thousands of strikers from 50 area hotels rallied and marched here Oct. 25 to back up demands for higher wages and to protest hotel bosses’ attempts to pit recently hired immigrants against the striking workers.

UNITE HERE Local 11 represents 15,000 workers employed at 60 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties, including cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front-desk agents.

Strikers first walked off the job July 2. Since then, the union has organized rolling strikes at different hotels.

Today’s action comes after a group of hotel employers presented a “new” proposal that didn’t meaningfully improve upon their previous offers. It contained no new money for wages, pensions or health insurance.

As housing costs here soar, workers have been demanding wages high enough for them to live in the communities where they work. Many now have to commute hours each way to work, with some saying they sleep in their cars.

Adan Robles has been a union member for 32 years and works as a housekeeper at the Beverly Wilshire. He has worked a second job at the University of California at Los Angeles, for six years, where he is a member of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299. “I’m proud to be a shop steward at both places,” Robles told the Militant.

“Food, gasoline and rent is very expensive. I have two daughters — 5 and 19 years old. I also help my family in Mexico,” he said. “I work 80 hours a week. I’m a full-time employee at both jobs. Still, I can barely pay my bills. I don’t know how people with one salary can make it.”

Marisella Hernandez has worked at the Hotel Mar Vista for seven years as a cook. “This is my third time on strike,” she said, and explained how the bosses are trying to intimidate the strikers. “Human Resources came out at the last protest and said they would call the police.”

“We are overworked,” Carlos Lagos, a food runner at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, said. During COVID the hotels cut workers and they’re not hiring people back. “I am doing the work of three people now.”

The hotels have started to hire newly arrived immigrants to replace striking workers.

Maria Hernandez, communications representative of UNITE HERE Local 11, told the press at the rally that the union stands behind the immigrants as well as its members. “We won’t let the hotel bosses divide us. We fight for all members and for all workers.”

Also at the rally to support the hotel workers were members of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals. Union President Charmaine Morales told the Militant, “We represent workers at Kaiser and other hospitals in California and Hawaii. Fifteen of us are here. When we look at the cost of living, we want workers to get a good living wage and quality of life.

“We recently had a five-day strike, including at St. Francis hospital here, and our demands have still not been met.”

The Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, which represents more than 85,000 workers at Kaiser hospitals and clinics across the country, recently won a tentative agreement after a three-day strike.

Three of the nonchain hotels — Loews Hollywood, Biltmore Los Angeles and Westin Bonaventure — have reached a tentative agreement with the union.

The same day, thousands of casino workers rallied all across Las Vegas. The contract covering some 40,000 members of the Culinary Workers Union there expired recently.

Norton Sandler contributed to this article.