The region’s largest hospitality union, UNITE HERE Local 11, representing over 32,000 room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, front desk agents, servers and food service workers, voted to authorize a strike today.
UNITE HERE Local 11 could call for a strike at dozens of hotels with more than 15,000 workers as early as July 4th weekend. This would be the largest hotel worker strike in modern US industry.
A press release states that during the pandemic, hotels received $15 billion in federal bailouts and cut jobs and guest services such as daily room cleaning. In 2023, Hotel profits in Los Angeles and Orange County exceeded pre-pandemic levels, yet hospitality workers continue to struggle to afford a place to live in the cities where they work.
Top on the list of concerns for hotel workers is the rising cost of housing. In a UNITE HERE Local 11 survey, 53% of workers said that they either have moved in the past 5 years or will move in the near future because of soaring housing costs.
The strike authorization vote comes after more than a month of failed negotiations with hotel employers–including Hyatt, Hilton, Highgate, Accor, IHG, and Marriott. The union’s key demands are an immediate $5 an hour wage increase to keep pace with the soaring cost of housing; affordable family healthcare; a pension that will enable workers to retire with security, and a safe and humane workload. Negotiations began on April 20 but the hotel industry has yet to respond with any wage proposals.
“I voted yes to strike because I commute two hours from my home in Apple Valley to downtown Los Angeles. I deserve to make enough money to live near where I work.” said Brenda Mendoza, a uniform attendant at the JW Marriott LA Live.
“I am ready to strike for our affordable health insurance, because my chronic illness will not wait.” said Lupe Pitones, Front Office PBX, Westin Bonaventure Hotel.
“Hotel workers who work in the booming Los Angeles’ tourism industry must be able to live in Los Angeles,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “The industry shamelessly exploited the pandemic and is now reaping greater profits than ever before. Yet workers cannot afford to pay the rent. This 96% vote to authorize a strike sends a clear message to the industry that workers have reached their limit and are prepared to strike to secure a living wage.”
Southern California will be the first city in modern history to host back-to-back the FIFA World Cup in 2026 and the Olympics in 2028. In recent decades, these mega sports events have left local governments indebted for years and have permanently displaced millions of poor residents. UNITE HERE Local 11 is calling on the industry and political leadership to use the events to transform tourism jobs into family sustaining jobs and solve the housing crisis.