L.A. hotel workers are back on the job, but say more strikes are to come

A picketer sits on a ledge outside the JW Marriott hotel in downtown L.A. on Monday, flanked by picket signs.
A striking member of Unite Here Local 11 sits on a ledge outside the JW Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles on Monday. Thousands of hotel workers in L.A. and Orange counties headed back to work Wednesday, though the union indicated that more walkouts are ahead this summer.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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Thousands of service workers at 19 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties returned to work Wednesday after three days of strikes over the busy Fourth of July weekend.

According to Unite Here Local 11 spokeswoman Maria Hernandez, workers from what she described as a first wave of walkouts returned to work Wednesday “to make room for [workers at] other hotels who have also authorized a strike to walk out.”

“They felt inspired by what the [striking workers] did and they are more energized. Any of those properties across the region could get ready to go out themselves really soon at any moment,” Hernandez said. Picketing will continue at hotels across the region at authorized strike locations, she said.


All but one of those 19 hotels immediately welcomed workers back on the job Wednesday morning. The Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica briefly locked out returning workers, according to Hernandez. The Fairmont Miramar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Contracts expired at midnight Friday for 61 Southern California hotel sites where workers are represented by Unite Here Local 11. The union has not budged from its position in April, when it proposed a $5 immediate hourly wage increase and a $3 boost annually for three years. The pay raises are necessary, the union says, because of the region’s expensive housing, which is forcing workers to move farther away.

The strike began Sunday morning at hotels including the Biltmore and JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles and the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica. The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown L.A., the union’s biggest employer with more than 600 workers, reached a tentative deal June 28, averting a potential strike at that location ahead of the contract expiration.

Employees at 18 hotels — including the Biltmore and JW Marriott in downtown Los Angeles and the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica — have gone on strike, according to the union.

July 3, 2023

A coalition of more than 40 of the hotels involved in negotiations urged the union to come to the bargaining table in an emailed statement Wednesday by attorneys Keith Grossman and Ken Ballard, who represent the hotel coalition.

Grossman and Ballard, of law firms Hirschfeld Kraemer and Ballard, Rosenberg Golper & Savitt, respectively, said if the union proceeds with more strikes at various Southern California hotels it represents, “those hotels are well prepared to service guests.”

“We welcome our employees back to work and the end of the work stoppage,” Grossman and Ballard said. “As we have said repeatedly, the Coordinated Group has not canceled meetings, only the Union has. We are ready to meet and hope Union leaders can focus on our employees and reaching a settlement and get back to the bargaining table.”


Hernandez said no bargaining is currently scheduled. “At this point, the Bonaventure led the way. Others will just have to sign that deal. If the Bonaventure can do it, others can too,” she said.

Local 11-represented workers at more than 60 hotels are authorized for a strike, but not all have walked out.

“It’s a strategic decision about where we are going to strike next, and many factors go into it,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, said Monday of the strike rollout. The fact that downtown L.A. and Santa Monica hotels were particularly busy with the Fourth of July holiday and a large anime convention downtown played into the union’s decision to strike at several of those properties first, he said.

Hundreds of workers also gathered Tuesday at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown to march to the JW Marriott for a rally with movement leaders and organizers. Speakers included L.A. City Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez.

Clocking in for picketing that began as early as 6 a.m., hotel workers expressed determination — as well as nerves.

July 2, 2023

“I know strikes can be hard sometimes, but when I’m out here, I’m always thinking to myself: Why am I striking? We are fighting for the future of our children, for stability, and for respect. It is us who make that money and we deserve more of that piece of the pie,” Soto-Martinez said in a mixture of English and Spanish during a rally speech.

Brenda Mendoza, a uniform attendant at JW Marriott, spoke of her long commutes to work. She received news Tuesday morning that her sister had died. The crowd shared a moment of silence.


“My sister passed away but I just wanted to stand here today with you guys because my sister believed in this and I want to dedicate this for my sister,” Mendoza said.

Traffic in downtown paused as workers crossed streets.

Carlos Silva, a United Parcel Service driver from Gardena, also joined the march. The Teamsters union‘s contract with UPS, which affects more than 340,000 part-time and full-time drivers in the United States, is set to expire July 31 and talks have recently broken down.

“It’s a labor movement that is happening nationwide, so it’s important for us to stick together and fight,” Silva said.

More than 300,000 United Parcel Service workers are closer to striking after the company failed to reach an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

July 5, 2023

Petersen of Unite Here Local 11 said in a statement that this weekend’s walkout was “the first of many actions that may come this summer by workers at hotels across Southern California.”

“It is only one tool in our toolbox. We have put the industry on notice that the workers have suffered enough,” Petersen said.