Los Angeles Hotel Employees Return to Work but Warn of Additional Strikes

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Thousands of housekeepers, front desk clerks, cooks and other hospitality staff returned to work on Wednesday at hotels in the Los Angeles area after three days of picketing, but union leaders said that more walkouts are likely in the coming days.

Workers from Unite Here Local 11 were on strike at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel.Credit…Philip Cheung for The New York Times

Why It Matters: The hotel strike is the latest in a wave of labor actions.

The hotel workers’ strike is the latest in a wave of labor actions by employees in California in what labor leaders are calling a “hot labor summer.”

Hotel workers, school employees, Hollywood writers and dockworkers have picketed this year, saying they struggle to pay their rent. The costs of gas, groceries and more have skyrocketed, they say, and their pay has not kept pace.

Business groups say that asking employers to shoulder the burdens of California’s housing crisis, particularly acute in places like Los Angeles, is unfair.

Background: Hotel workers want multiple raises over three years.

As tourists, wedding guests and Animé fans descended on the region for an extended weekend leading into the Fourth of July holiday, thousands of workers at 19 hotels officially began striking on Sunday.

Members of Unite Here Local 11, the union representing some 15,000 hotel workers in Southern California, authorized a strike last month, as their contract was expiring. Kurt Petersen, the union’s co-president, said on Thursday that although the initial picketers had returned to their jobs, thousands of additional union members were preparing to walk out at some of the roughly 60 hotels where workers had voted to strike.

“We’re calling it waves,” he said. “They’re really angry: They want to get to a wage that’s fair, and they want respect.”

Local 11 wants hourly wages, now $20 to $25 for housekeepers, to immediately rise by $5, followed by a $3 increase in each subsequent year of a three-year contract. Union leaders say workers need such increases to afford living costs in Los Angeles, where housing is scarce and expensive. The union has also asked that hotels impose a 7 percent fee on guests to help fund worker housing.

Hotel officials have accused the union’s leaders of being more interested in making a political statement than in reaching agreement.

Keith Grossman, a spokesman for more than 40 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange Counties that are bargaining with the union, has said that the employers had offered to increase pay to more than $31 per hour, from $25 per 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 unlawful, but it is also a real obstacle to reaching agreement on a contract,” Mr. Grossman said.

Mr. Petersen, the union co-president, called the claim “frivolous. ” He said that hotels already charge fees for amenities and other items and should prioritize ensuring that their employees can afford housing.

What’s Next: More walkouts are planned.

Union leaders said that workers at each hotel will decide whether to walk off the job. In the meantime, they said that they plan to continue picketing outside hotels and hope that travelers or event planners will consider avoiding the properties that are engaged in the current labor dispute.

Hotel industry officials said that 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.

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