Hollywood housewives and dishwashers join their writers on the pickets. As the WGA reaches the two-month mark of its work stoppage over a contract dispute with the studios, and SAG-AFTRA is aware of its strike decision, the powerful local hospitality union UNITE HERE Local 11 has announced its own strike. .
The historic walkout, the largest labor action of its kind in the hospitality industry in modern US history, encompasses some 15,000 union members at more than 60 properties in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Local 11, which deals with hotels individually or through their corporate groups, argues that the hotel sector is now booming profitable as the pandemic has subsided. He is negotiating for an immediate wage increase of $5 per hour, with increases of $3 per year over the course of his three-year contract, for a total of $11. (Current hourly base wage is $20 for housewives and $22 for dishwashers and cooks). The union cites the local housing affordability crisis, among other issues, for the urgent need for a substantial wage increase.
“Our members were devastated first by the pandemic and now by the greed of their bosses,” Local 11 co-chairman Kurt Petersen said in a statement issued when the strike was called. “The industry received bailouts while we cut back. Now, the hotel negotiators decided to take a four-day vacation instead of negotiating. Shameful.”
On Sunday morning, July 2, members of Local 11 began picketing hotels in downtown Los Angeles, including the JW Marriott, InterContinental, and Biltmore. Along with July 4th weekend visitors, those properties are serving up the ongoing Anime Expo at the nearby Los Angeles Convention Center. (That gathering drew more than 100,000 attendees in 2022.)
The union’s footprint includes a large number of high-end lodgings in the Los Angeles area frequented by members of the entertainment industry, whether to stay, dine, attend events, including special events, or film productions. These include Chateau Marmont, Beverly Hilton, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, Beverly Wilshire, Hyatt Andaz, W Hollywood, Fairmont Miramar, and Viceroy Santa Monica. (In recent days, carpet meetings and events have been suspended while the industry awaits the SAG-AFTRA decision.)
“Based on the actions of the union, it is clear that the union is not focused on the interests of our employees and their members and is instead focused on their political agenda,” said Keith Grossman, spokesman for a coordinated group of more than 40 hotels that bargain with the union, in their own statement. “The union wants to go on strike over increasing their presence, imposing a new tax on guests only at union hotels and housing the homeless in hotels.”
The coordinated group, which represents major hotel brands including Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, Accor, IHG and Highgate, says the union has yet to budge in negotiations on its initial demands and has already been offered to raise wages in $2.50 per hour in the first year and $6.25 for four years. In a separate statement, the Los Angeles Hotel Association, an industry trade organization, said the sector provides jobs for more than 250,000 people and generates an estimated $12.5 billion in wages each year.
In the days leading up to Local 11’s contract deadline, downtown Los Angeles’ iconic Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites reached an agreement with the union, on behalf of more than 600 employees, that Local 11 hopes will serve as model for agreements with other properties in the area. . Although not yet ratified, the text provides broadly for higher wages, more affordable health insurance, increases in pension contributions, a ban on discrimination based on immigration status, and other considerations. Known for its cylindrical glass architecture and exterior elevators, the postmodernist Westin Bonaventure has long been a go-to for industry location scouts, used onscreen in everything from Interstellar and Strange Days to Los Angeles Law and Alias.
The union has a symbiotic relationship with the Hollywood labor movement. During his recent successful campaign to stage A-list favorite The Chateau, he drew on the support of the WGA, DGA, IATSE, SAG AFTRA and the Teamsters, including closing multiple high-profile production shoots at the hotel.
Since the writers’ strike began, Local 11 has announced it would support the union’s work stoppage by respecting any established picket lines on their employers’ properties, which could limit some on-site shootings. “Tourism and entertainment are by far the most important industries in Los Angeles,” union leadership explained in a letter to affected hotels at the time. “When the workers in our industries prosper, the city prospers. And when workers in our industries are mistreated, paid inadequate wages, or left without job security, the entire city suffers. We rise or fall together.”