Since the 4th of July holiday weekend, around sixty large hotels in Southern California, and especially in Los Angeles, have been affected by extensive strikes, mobile pickets and demonstrations.

32,000 workers (room maids, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders and receptionists) are trying to renew their employment contracts which expired on June 30th.

They ask for an increase of 11 dollars in hourly wages over the course of the three-year contract (5 dollars/hour from the signing of the agreement), improvement of health care and pension benefits, reduction of workloads, possibility of access to work for people who have served prison sentences and for undocumented immigrants.

All normal aspects of life in the United States [are concerned]. Renting accommodation in big cities, such as Los Angeles, is prohibitively expensive for workers, healthcare is covered by employment contracts unless you very poor, the pension is to be built with provisions obtained in the same contracts and workloads increased due to the many layoffs or resignations at the peak of the pandemic, after which the workforce was not reconstituted. And where undocumented people are very numerous and many women and men, belonging to marginalized ethnic groups, have passed for various reasons, even not serious ones, into the large number of prisons managed by the State or privately.

Last Saturday the local section of the Unite Here union, which represents these hotel workers, announced further agreements, which concern 7,000 employees of 10 large hotels: one Hilton and nine from the Marriott group. There are now a total of twenty hotels in which an agreement has been reached, of the 60 affected by the dispute.

Above all, the hotels managed by Aimbridge Hospitality remain at stake, in some of which the union has denounced in recent months the temporary hiring of replacements for strikers (which is also provided for by the regulations in force in the USA in the case of contract strike).

In this case, those [hired] without knowing they were going to be scabs were found among Venezuelan and Colombian refugees hosted in homeless shelters, such as the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row.

The LA County District Court opened an investigation into the matter. Its manager, Attorney George Gascón, said he was concerned about the potential for wage theft and violations of child labor law.

Union complaints are still open against the managements of some hotels, who have used, in cases documented by photos and videos, their security agents to intimidate and/or ill treat striking workers.

This dispute had explicit support from the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, who in a message last August, published on the Union’s website, specified that “workers, even in my home state, California, are fighting to get fair pay, good benefits, and a voice in the workplace. As the President and I always say, every worker – from writers, to actors, to hospitality and municipal workers – deserves a fair contract.” Of the contracts mentioned, which concern California, only the hotel companies have not yet reached contract renewal.

Main sources:

S.Hussain, Unite Here Local 11 reaches deal with Beverly Wilshire, strikes Sheraton near Disneyland – Progress builds toward L.A. hotel strike settlement as union reaches deals with 10 more hotels, Los Angeles Times, 12.15 – 12.16

Translation from Italian by Evelyn Tischer