L.A.’s striking hotel workers are being roughed up by employers’ security, union says

Striking hotel workers during a protest in Los Angeles.
From left; Eliza Silva, Lorena Ramirez, and Maria Hernandez, hotel workers at the JW Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles, join other striking hotel workers during a protest outside the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel, at 7th and Figueroa streets in downtown Los Angeles.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Hundreds of hotel workers rallied in downtown Los Angeles on Monday morning to protest what their union described in a labor complaint as a pattern of violent incidents and property destruction at picket lines where workers have been on strike.

At one point, workers marched in a large circle, blocking traffic at the Wilshire Boulevard and 7th Street intersection, chanting and waving signs as police looked on.

Workers and their supporters have been attacked multiple times as they protested outside properties in Los Angeles and Orange counties, Unite Here Local 11 alleged in a complaint filed Monday with the National Labor Relations Board. The union’s complaint cited incidents as recently last weekend, at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, Hotel Maya in Long Beach and Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point.

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Striking hotel workers allege they’ve been attacked by security guards

Hotel workers march in a big circle, blocking the intersection of 7th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in downtown L.A., while protesting recent scuffles with security guards at three hotels where the workers are on strike. (Video by Helen Li)

Thousands of hotel workers have staged intermittent walkouts since early July as they demand higher wages and improved working conditions. Contracts covering more than 15,000 workers and more than 60 hotels expired June 30.

Last week, hundreds of employees across Los Angeles at more than 25 hotels walked out, urging Taylor Swift to postpone her Aug.3-9 concerts at SoFi Stadium to support their push. The workers say they don’t earn enough to afford housing near their jobs. Only the Westin Bonaventure has reached a tentative agreement and avoided a strike.

Peter Hillan, a spokesperson for the California Hotel and Lodging Assn., said that safety is the top priority of the group’s members in the face of “Unite Here Local 11’s extremely aggressive and unlawful protest tactics.”

“Union representatives are blaring sirens and alarms at odd hours that not only disturb the peace and neighboring residents but also clearly create a safety risk,” Hillan said in an email. “Hotels have made law enforcement as well as the Mayor’s office aware of these increasingly aggressive actions by picketers aimed at guests, employees and our communities. We’ve asked that the police take concrete steps to ensure the safety of all. “

A video circulating online shows footage of security personnel pushing and tackling picketing hotel workers after a rally march Saturday in Santa Monica that ended at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. The protesters appeared to be trying to cross a barrier set up in front of the luxury hotel, and Hillan noted “on the video at the Fairmont, union representatives are kicking over barricades intended to maintain safety and order.”


German Martinez, who was among workers tackled at the Saturday protest, said that when security guards opened a barricade to let a car in, he walked through. Suddenly and without verbal warning, security guards tried to yank the drum away and tackled Martinez to the ground, Martinez said in an interview. While he was still on the ground, a guard jumped on him a second time, Martinez said.

“The security guards basically came after us, all the protesters,” Martinez said in Spanish. “What the company did wasn’t correct, we were peacefully protesting.”

“I couldn’t get up because I was hurt. My ankles and my elbows were all bruised,” Martinez said. He was still in pain three days later: “My whole body hurts.”

Keith Grossman, an attorney representing a group of 44 hotel owners and operators involved in contract negotiations — including the Fairmont Miramar — declined to comment through Hillan. Grossman has previously said strike actions by hotel workers represent “Local 11’s continued counterproductive conduct.”

Fairmont Miramar representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For the record:

8:26 p.m. Aug. 7, 2023An earlier version of this story said that the alleged incident at the Hotel Maya happened Sunday.

Another incident took place Saturday in Long Beach at the Hotel Maya, according to the complaint.

“Hotel security personnel including a manager at the Maya Hotel sought to forcibly relocate striking workers using a chain link fence while a guest ran around the fence and punched a worker in the head” and pushed “at least two others,” the union said in a news advisory.

Kambiz Babaoff, chairman of the real estate group that owns Hotel Maya, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”


Southern California hotel workers are demanding higher pay and better benefits and working conditions in a strike that began in early July.

Aug. 4, 2023

There were at least three altercations in July at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point the union said. During one, celebrity chef John Tesar, who runs the hotel’s Knife Modern Steak restaurant, swore at striking workers and broke one of their drums, the union said.

Unite Here Local 11 also alleges that a security head at Laguna Cliffs told a guest who had threatened to assault workers that the guest should do what he wanted to do and that security personnel would testify on the guest’s behalf.

Laguna Cliffs is owned by the University of California Retirement Fund and operated by Aimbridge.

A hotel representative told the New York Post that Tesar was removed from the hotel property and the company is examining “appropriate next steps.” Union representatives said they, too, were told by Aimbridge that it is investigating the incident after removing Tesar from the property.

Aimbridge did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Laguna Cliffs human resources manager Joe Garciaross did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Efforts to reach Tesar were unsuccessful.

Protesting hotel workers have not only had run-ins with security personnel, but also with guests. Angry guests have filed noise complaints about early morning picket lines. There was an instance in which a passerby threw an egg and poured a cup of urine on workers.

At the rally held outside the InterContinental hotel in downtown L.A. on Monday morning, hundreds of workers sporting their signature red union shirts marched, chanted and waved picket signs. The sound of drums and brass instruments echoed through the air as workers danced.


“We will not be bullied at the negotiating table and we will definitely not be bullied on the picket lines,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, said through a megaphone to the crowd.

Ada Briceño, also co-president of Unite Here Local 11, addressed the crowd from the makeshift truck podium.

“We won’t tolerate it,” Briceño said in Spanish about the incidents that occurred over the weekend. She said union members will continue to protest peacefully for as long as it takes to secure a contract — “even if [a contract] is six months away.”

Los Angeles Councilmembers Katy Yaroslavsky of District 5, Hugo Soto-Martinez of District 13, Eunisses Hernandez of District 1, and Nithya Raman of District 4 also spoke at the rally.

Earlier this year, Yaroslavksy co-proposed a minimum wage increase for workers at hotels with more than 60 guest rooms to $25 an hour by 2023 and $1 per year to $30 by 2028.

“We won’t cower to intimidation, shameful tactics, like the anti-union behavior we saw this weekend at the Fairmont. They should be embarrassed,” Yaroslavsky told the crowd.


Councilmember Raman, the chair of the council’s committee on housing and homelessness, addressed the thousands of eviction notices in the city and the burden of homelessness.

“It’s appalling. It’s ridiculous for you to use violence on some of our most vulnerable community members,” Hernandez said as she pointed up to the InterContinental building’s security guards. (The InterContinental wasn’t mentioned in the union’s complaint.) “You’re witnessing but you’re not safe, either. Don’t be comfortable and align yourself with the community.”

“Que queremos? Contrato! Cuando? Ahora!” (What do we want? A contract! When? Now!) the striking workers yelled in a call and response.” As the rally ended, they paired up for the Zapateado, a traditional Mexican dance, to the music of the assembled live band.

“They’re wasting the money to get protection for themselves but what about us?” said Diana Rios Sanchez, a housekeeping supervisor at the InterContinental. She vowed to keep fighting for a contract.