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Seven hotel strikes settled but more labor unrest is possible in L.A. and Orange counties

Seven hotel strikes settled but more labor unrest is possible in L.A. and Orange counties
Hotel workers strike in front of a Marriott hotel in San Francisco in October 2018. Similar strikes have been settled in Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Boston, Hawaii and Detroit. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Labor unions and the world’s largest hotel company have reached agreements to settle strikes in seven places across the country, but labor leaders warn more unrest could be ahead elsewhere as hotel contracts expire in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Strikes that began in October have ended in Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, Boston, Detroit and on the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Oahu, where workers at Marriott International hotels demonstrated for higher wages, increased worker safety and protection against being replaced due to automation.

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More than 2,500 workers at Marriott hotels in San Francisco are still on strike, and union leaders said contracts are expiring at the end of this month at 25 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties, most of them operated by Marriott.

Rachel Gumpert, a spokeswoman for Unite Here, the national labor union for hotel workers, said that future strikes aren’t planned but are an option.

“We think strikes should be a weapon that are used by workers when needed,” she said.

Marriott International is the world’s largest hotel company, with about 6,700 properties in more than 130 countries, 177,000 employees and revenue of $22 billion in fiscal 2017.

In a statement, the company said it has “had a longstanding and productive relationship with Unite Here’’ and “has always negotiated our collective bargaining agreements in good faith and have always reached fair agreements.”

In total, about 7,700 workers were on strike last month at Marriott hotels across the country. Among other issues, workers were demanding wages that ensured employees could make ends meet without having to take a second or third job — a level of compensation often referred to as a “living wage.”

Gumpert declined to discuss the details of the agreements that settled the strikes in the seven locations except to say that the workers won “historic” wage increases and other concessions from Marriott.

“We’re extremely pleased with what we were able to achieve,” she said, adding that the contract details will be released once the San Francisco strike is settled.

The strikes were launched as the tourism industry has enjoyed record spending and visitors. Last year, 77 million international visitors spent a record $251.4 billion on hotels, travel, food and souvenirs in the U.S., a 2% increase over 2016, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.

The strong economy and thriving tourism industry made it easier for Marriott to offer generous concessions to end the labor unrest, Gumpert said.

“The fact of the matter is that the economy has recovered and wages have not kept up with the economy,” she said.

But the 25 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties at which contracts expire Friday employ about 8,000 workers who are members of Unite Here. Most of the high-end hotels are operated by Marriott, but other hotels with expiring contracts include the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood, the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills and Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica.

A Unite Here representative said contract negotiations have already been underway for contracts at those 25 hotels, but workers may be asked to vote whether to launch a strike as early as next month.

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