Southern California hotel workers ratify new contracts, ending strikes for some

People hold signs reading "Local 11 On Strike."
Hotel workers protest in July outside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

After months spent on and off the picket lines, employees at about three dozen Southern California hotels, including some of Los Angeles’ most high-end properties, voted this weekend to approve new contracts that deliver higher wages for thousands of housekeepers, cooks and other workers.

The deal brings a partial end to a labor dispute that has roiled the local hotel industry since last summer, when workers at about 60 hotels launched a strategy of intermittent strikes to protest wages and work conditions. The contracts approved this weekend cover only 34 of those hotels.

The overwhelming approval of the four-year agreements — 98% of votes were in favor of them — was announced Monday by Unite Here Local 11, the union representing the workers.


The contracts, which cover luxury hotels such as the Beverly Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria, include an almost immediate raise of $5 per hour for workers who don’t typically earn tips, including front desk clerks, dishwashers and housekeepers. Those workers will see a total hourly wage boost of $10 over the course of the contract that expires in January 2028.

Under the terms of the agreements, hotels will also increase pension contributions and investments in healthcare, the union said.

Labor leaders trumpeted the deal as an unmitigated win.

“The agreement — we are using the term ‘life-changing,’ because it truly is — is 50 pages of total victory, from affordable health insurance to probably the best pension for service workers in the country,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, in an interview. “The real game changer is the wages. We said this about people being able to afford to live where they work, and we’ve taken an enormous stride to enable people to do that.”

The ratified contracts formalize tentative deals, many of which were inked in the closing months of last year and earlier this year.

Major hotel brands praised those earlier agreements.

Michael D’Angelo, Hyatt Hotels Corp.’s head of labor relations overseeing the Americas, said in an emailed statement Monday that he was “pleased to share” that the agreement had been ratified. He said the terms of the agreement for Hyatt properties offer competitive wages and benefits, including a pension, as well as comprehensive healthcare coverage.

“Our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best. Our colleagues are the heart of our business, and their well-being continues to remain a top priority,” D’Angelo said.


When announcing tentative agreements with the union in December for workers at the Beverly Hilton, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and Hilton Anaheim, Hilton spokesperson Karla Visconti said the company welcomed the end of negotiations and looked “forward to continuing to welcome our guests with our signature hospitality.”

Hilton representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment about details of the contracts revealed by the union Monday and the ratification vote.

With construction underway on another high-end hotel — the Aman Beverly Hills, between the Waldorf Astoria and the Beverly Hilton — union officials said that as part of the agreement, workers there will also be represented by Unite Here Local 11.

Hotel workers have said their pay hasn’t kept pace with soaring housing costs, and as a result, many have been displaced from neighborhoods near their workplaces and forced into long commutes. In sometimes contentious contract negotiations, the union initially demanded a $5 immediate hourly wage increase and a $3 boost each subsequent year of the three-year contract, for a total of $11. At a bargaining session in September, the union slightly lowered that proposal, to $10.50.

The terms of the 4½-year collective bargaining agreement are close to those initial demands, with non-tipped workers receiving a retroactive $2.50 hourly pay boost beginning Sept. 1, 2023; another $2.50 boost beginning April 1; a $1 bump at the start of 2025; another $1 bump Jan. 1, 2026; and additional $1 bumps every six months after that, totaling $10 over the course of the contract.

Housekeepers, called “room attendants,” will earn $35 per hour, or $73,000 per year, at most hotels by July 1, 2027. Top cooks will earn $41 per hour, or $85,000 per year, the union said.


Doormen, restaurant servers and other workers who typically receive tips won’t see the same hourly wage boosts over the course of the contract but won economic improvements that include double pay for holidays and higher pay for vacation and sick days. Full-service restaurants will charge an automatic 20% gratuity that will be split among staff, union officials said.

The contracts prohibit hotels from using E-Verify, a federal system used to check work eligibility of employees, as a way to protect immigrants working in the country without papers.

“We are pleased that Unite Here has finally ratified the agreements,” said Peter Hillan, a spokesperson for the California Hotel and Lodging Assn., an industry group. “Having our employees under contract so they can return to serving guests is good news for everybody.”

Under the agreement, hotels agreed to remove any disciplinary write-ups workers received in connection to their strike actions and to remedy related charges of unfair labor practices filed by the union with the National Labor Relations Board. Union officials said hundreds of workers had been subject to some sort of discipline. About seven workers who had been fired from hotels will be reinstated, said Petersen, the union’s co-president.

Workers gathered in rooms at various hotels beginning Thursday to cast their votes.

At the Beverly Hilton around lunchtime on Friday, Jordan Rodarte listened intently to union stewards presenting terms of the contract.

Rodarte is among a small group of spa workers at the Waldorf Astoria who recently joined Unite Here Local 11 after finding themselves losing income last year when other workers went on strike.


“We had no guests coming to the spa,” Rodarte said. “Each day, the director was calling us, saying, ‘Don’t come into work.’

“That really started a fire in us, because as spa workers, we provide this luxury service, and now we’re running out of work, and we’re not getting paid,” he said. “We looked at it as, ‘We deserve raises too.’”

Rolando Garcia, 48, who has worked as a food runner at the Waldorf Astoria for six years, commutes to Beverly Hills from Orange County. He said he’s glad the deal secures gains for workers, especially with ongoing construction of another luxury hotel next door.

“It’s very difficult to live in Los Angeles with the cost of living going up and up and up,” Garcia said. Hotel companies “are getting tax breaks and everything. It’s not fair that only they get the benefit in the long run.”

But strikes continue at dozens of other hotels — including the Hotel Figueroa, Hotel Maya and Doubletree Downtown Los Angeles — where tentative agreements and formal contracts remain elusive.

Last week, workers at Proper Santa Monica, Hotel June, San Pedro Doubletree and Proper Downtown Los Angeles walked off the job. The strike lasted several days.


Over the course of the contract campaign, Petersen and other union officials have said their demands are crucial protection as Los Angeles gears up to host the World Cup in 2026 and the Summer Olympics in 2028. Petersen said some brands pushed to extend the contract expiration date in an effort to avert labor unrest around the Olympics, but the union declined.

Arturo Hueso, a housekeeper at the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica for about 30 years, said at a Monday-morning news conference to announce the results of the contract ratification vote that the union’s push for affordable health insurance is particularly important to him, as he was diagnosed with cancer in 2020. Regarding his medical treatment, Hueso said he “didn’t pay a penny.”

Hueso and other workers who spoke said they will keep showing up to protests to support workers at hotels who have not yet secured contracts. “We will not give up,” he said.