A hot labor summer heats up with hotel workers’ strike

Hotel workers picket in Los Angeles
Hotel workers picket on July 2, 2023, in Los Angeles.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, July 3. I’m Suhauna Hussain, a reporter on the L.A. Times business desk. I write about issues affecting workers.

It’s shaping up to be a “hot labor summer” in Los Angeles.

For the record:

11:36 a.m. July 4, 2023An earlier version of this story said employees at 62 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties were scheduled to walk off the job as early as Saturday after their contracts expire. Sixty-one contracts between workers represented by Unite Here Local 11 and Southern California hotel sites expired Friday at midnight.

Thousands of workers at hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties walked off the job early Sunday morning, beginning what could be the largest U.S. hotel workers’ strike in recent memory. It’s no coincidence the strike falls on the typically busy Fourth of July weekend — and during the largest anime convention in North America, held in downtown L.A. — when hotel operators will feel it most.

Collective bargaining agreements at 61 hotels expired at midnight Friday. Workers represented by Unite Here Local 11 at more than 17 of those hotels are striking so far, as of Sunday afternoon, and the union said it expects more to join.


The strike represents a broad campaign by the union to leverage its growing membership to secure significant pay increases for tourism workers in the coming months. Sweeping pay raises are necessary, the union says, because of the region’s expensive housing, which is forcing workers to move farther away.

Complaints about the high cost of living is a common theme in labor actions this year. It was also the basis for a historic strike in the fall of some 48,000 unionized academic workers across the University of California’s 10 campuses.

The hotel worker strike is just one in a burst of job actions scheduled by various unions this spring and summer, across multiple industries in Southern California.

Workers are fighting for “historic gains” this year, said Yvonne Wheeler, a veteran labor leader who recently took over as head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Unions are willing to “shut it down,” she said, speaking at a rally organized by multiple unions in downtown L.A. in late May.

Hundreds of striking members of the Writers Guild of America rally
Hundreds of striking members of the Writers Guild of America rally at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles on June 21.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

In March, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and other low-paid workers at Los Angeles Unified School District went on strike.


In April, employees at Flying Food Group Inc., a catering company that provides in-flight meals for international airlines at Los Angeles International Airport, began a strike that lasted several weeks.

Amazon delivery drivers in recent days have also been picketing at various logistics facilities in California, including Palmdale, Mira Loma and Newark. The actions were organized by local units of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

And now, it’s possible we could see prolonged and concurrent strikes of hotel workers, screenwriters and actors.

Hollywood writers have been on strike since May 2, and actors are in tense negotiations with studios. SAG-AFTRA members voted to authorize a strike if their leaders couldn’t secure a new film and TV contract to replace one that expired at midnight Friday. But the union agreed Friday to allow more time to negotiate, averting a strike for now.

You can read more about the hotel workers’ strike here.

In other labor news, the California Supreme Court on June 28 agreed to review a challenge to gig worker law Proposition 22. You might remember the voter initiative was bankrolled by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other rideshare and delivery companies, and approved by Californians on the 2020 ballot.


The law faced a legal challenge and has been bouncing around appeals courts for the past few years. The top court in California has decided to take a look at the case, and will likely be the final word on it. But don’t hold your breath. It may be many months before a hearing takes place and the question is settled.

You can read more about the Proposition 22 case here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California from Ryan Fonseca:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


Community advocate Imelda Padilla claimed victory in a special election to represent San Fernando Valley residents on the L.A. City Council. So far, Padilla has received 56% of the vote over opponent Marisa Alcaraz’s 44% to take the seat vacated when former council President Nury Martinez resigned in October. Though it will be weeks before Padilla’s victory is certified by the L.A. County Registrar/Recorder, Council President Paul Krekorian named her the caretaker of the district and introduced a motion to fast-track her official start date. Los Angeles Times


What’s next for U.S. colleges and universities after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action? California, where race-based admissions practices have been banned since 1998, could provide a preview — and some lessons. Following the ban, the number of Black and Latino students enrolled in state universities plummeted, and officials say they’ve fallen short on diversity and equity goals enacted to address that. NPR

Los Angeles County Public Health workers push large metal carts outside a building
Los Angeles County Public Health officials cart away paperwork and other items after checking on a group of migrants at St. Anthony’s Croatian Church in Chinatown on July 1, 2023.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)

Texas state officials bused another group of migrants to Los Angeles over the weekend. A coalition of nonprofit, faith and immigrant rights organizations welcomed the group, saying 41 people seeking asylum at the U.S. border departed from Brownsville, Texas, and arrived at Union Station on Saturday. The group includes people from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Belize and Nicaragua. Los Angeles Times


A San Diego jury found student loan servicer Vervant guilty of conspiring to divert 40,000 ITT students into a loan program rife with bogus charges. Former students taking part in the class-action RICO lawsuit could receive millions back, though Vervant plans to appeal the ruling. San Diego Union-Tribune

Black workers at Tesla’s largest California plant say they continue to face segregation into dangerous, lower-wage jobs and racist treatment even after a lawsuit was filed on their behalf in Alameda County. The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status as hundreds of current and former Black workers at the Fremont facility file statements describing racist graffiti, racial slurs and other harassment from fellow workers and managers. Mercury News

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A flooded field shows small pistachio trees reflected in the water as a white bird stands in the middle.
A breach of the nearby Boyette Levee allowed water to flow from the surging Tulare Lake and flooded hundreds of acres of pistachio orchards owned by a conglomerate led by Makram Hanna.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The return of Tulare Lake wreaked havoc on farmers who suddenly found hundreds of acres of their livelihoods underwater. Times reporter Ian James visited one pistachio farm to learn how they’re dealing with inundated orchards and bracing for disaster. Los Angeles Times

With summer in full sizzle, a day at the beach might sound good this month. But wading into the Pacific includes a well-hidden risk: stepping on a stingray and learning firsthand how they got their name. That’s why the “stingray shuffle” is the recommended way to walk in the water — but why does it work? Researchers at Cal State Long Beach used a Halloween prop leg to learn more. Long Beach Post


It should surprise no one that shooting off fireworks amid hot, dry conditions is a strong recipe for wildfires. That’s why some U.S. forest managers have advised revelers to opt for Silly String over explosives this Fourth of July, though that advice has some environmentalists popping off. Associated Press

The San Diego-hosted Comic-Con International has become a pop culture tentpole, drawing tens of thousands of people each year. But this year’s convention will have some major absences, including Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Sony and Universal. A possible actors guild strike could cut the high-profile attendees even more. San Diego Union-Tribune

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Today’s California landmark is from Gerald Francisco of Kailua Kona, Hawaii: the Capitol Records building in Hollywood.

The Capitol Records building rising under a clear blue sky.
The Capitol Records building in Hollywood, photographed in 2012.
(Gerald Francisco)

Gerald writes:

I used to live in Los Angeles back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I always enjoyed going to Hollywood. Along with the Hollywood sign and the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the timeless Capitol Records building is an absolute Hollywood landmark.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

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