Four Southern California Hilton hotels reach deals with striking workers, suggesting momentum
After five months of on-and-off strikes by Southern California hotel workers, there are signs of progress toward a resolution.
On Friday, Unite Here Local 11 announced it had reached a tentative contract agreement with the Beverly Hilton covering more than 500 unionized workers.
The union struck deals Saturday with two other properties managed by Hilton: for some 300 workers at the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills, and about 800 workers at the Hilton Anaheim.
Unite Here Local 11 also nailed down a tentative agreement Saturday with Hilton Costa Mesa, a property that carries the Hilton name but is operated independently. The Costa Mesa deal covers about 200 workers, union spokesperson Rachel Sulkes said.
In total, nine hotels have reached tentative contract agreements with Unite Here Local 11.
The hotel strike is hitting consumers harder than any other during Los Angeles’ labor summer, bringing complaints, a disrupted wedding and violence.
The union has declined to give specifics on wages and other economic details of the agreements it has reached thus far, and the contracts have not yet been put to a vote by workers. Union spokesperson Maria Hernandez has said that the contracts — once ratified by workers at the various hotels — will raise wages, strengthen pensions and increase investments in healthcare.
The nine hotels represent a small portion of the some 60 hotel sites in Los Angeles and Orange counties hit by a series of sporadic strikes after contracts covering more than 15,000 housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and front desk workers expired June 30.
But momentum to settle the strike appears to be building as winter holidays and the Hollywood awards season pick up. Three of the four hotels reaching contract agreements in recent days had been part of a coordinated bargaining group said to represent owners and operators of more than 40 Southern California properties, Sulkes said.
“Our hope is that [negotiations] are starting to move,” she said.
The Beverly Hilton, longtime host of the annual Golden Globe Awards, was the sixth property to reach a deal with the union. The Friday evening announcement of the deal came mere days before the unveiling of Golden Globe nominations Monday morning at the hotel, averting potential picket lines.
“The hotel and union are pleased to announce their deal just before what promises to be an especially celebratory awards season on the heels of the actors’ and writers’ own labor disputes,” the union said in an emailed statement Friday regarding the Beverly Hilton contract.
Unite Here Local 11 co-President Kurt Petersen praised the hotel as “a leader in Beverly Hills” and urged the city’s other hotels targeted by the strike — the Fairmont Century Plaza and the Beverly Wilshire — to “quickly follow suit.”
“Hotel workers at the Beverly Hilton are eager to kick off the awards season now that Hollywood is back in full swing because they have a contract with a living wage,” Petersen said in the statement.
Hilton spokesperson Karla Visconti said in an emailed statement Saturday: “We are pleased to have reached a new labor agreement with Unite Here Local 11 for our valued Team Members at the Beverly Hilton, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and Hilton Anaheim. Hilton Team Members are at the heart of everything we do and we look forward to continuing to welcome our guests with our signature hospitality.”
Sulkes, the union spokesperson, said that a picket line the union originally planned to set up outside of the Beverly Hilton on Monday morning will shift to the Beverly Wilshire. She said the union plans to set up the Monday protest as a meal, complete with tables and serving of food, mimicking Hollywood awards banquets.
Peter Hillan, a spokesperson for the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, said the trade group couldn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Keith Grossman, an attorney representing the coordinated group of hotel owners and operators in talks with the union, did not respond to a request for comment. In early July, Grossman had said that the group consisted of 44 L.A. and Orange county hotels; he did not immediately respond to questions clarifying how many hotels remained in the group.
The Beverly Hilton, Waldorf Astoria and Hilton Anaheim had been members of the negotiating group, Sulkes said. The Hilton Costa Mesa, however, was not part of the bargaining group, she said.
The heated labor dispute has persisted for months. Noisy early morning picket lines, with hotel workers in red union shirts banging drums and blowing horns, have become a familiar scene at many L.A.-area hotels.
A group of 27 federal lawmakers is urging the U.S. Department of Labor and FEMA to investigate Los Angeles hotels for potential labor violations.
Local trade associations representing hotels have criticized the strike as damaging to the regional tourism economy. Workers say they can’t afford to live near their jobs anymore in Southern California’s overheated housing market.
Unite Here Local 11 had escalated worker protests on Wednesday morning. Housekeepers, cooks and other workers, as well as staff organizers with Unite Here Local 11, set up camp outside two hotels on Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport early Wednesday morning.
Dozens of tents lined the sidewalk outside the Sheraton Gateway and Four Points Sheraton LAX; over the tents dangled string lights and clotheslines festooned with laundry, including lacy lingerie and baby onesies. In front of the Sheraton Gateway hung a large yellow banner reading “Occupy.”
Workers protested in shifts, with some sleeping there overnight. The union hauled in portable toilets for protesting workers, and at night when the temperature dropped, union staffers helped shivering and bundled-up workers light heat lamps.
Housekeepers interviewed Thursday night said they are frustrated by months of tense negotiations and years of what they describe as heavier workloads for wages that are unlivable.
Sheraton Gateway housekeepers said they make a $19.80 hourly wage. Unite Here Local 11 spokesperson Maria Teresa Kamel said that of the hotels in talks with the union, workers near LAX tend to have some of the most depressed wages.