Commentary

LABOR Los Angeles Hotel Workers Go on Strike

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jill Cowan and Kurtis Lee , July 4, 2023

The strike is part of a wave of recent labor actions in the nation’s second-largest metropolis, where high costs of living have made it difficult for many workers — from housekeepers to Hollywood writers — to stay afloat.

Thousands of hotel workers in Southern California walked off the job on Sunday demanding higher pay and better benefits, just as hordes of tourists descended on the region for the Fourth of July holiday.

“Workers have been pent up and frustrated and angry about what’s happened during the pandemic combined with the inability to pay their rent and stay in Los Angeles,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, the union representing the workers. “So people feel liberated, it’s Fourth of July, freedom is reigning in Los Angeles and hotel workers are leading that fight.”

Representatives for the hotels have said that the union had not been bargaining in good faith, and that leaders were determined to disrupt operations.

“The hotels want to continue to provide strong wages, affordable quality family health care and a pension,” Keith Grossman, a spokesman for the coordinated bargaining group consisting of more than 40 Los Angeles and Orange County hotels, said in a statement.

The strike is part of a wave of recent labor actions in the nation’s second-largest metropolis, where high costs of living have made it difficult for many workers — from housekeepers to Hollywood writers — to stay afloat.

Workers across Southern California in a range of industries have threatened to strike or walked off the job in recent months, displaying unusual levels of solidarity with other unions as they push for higher pay and better working conditions.

Dockworkers disrupted operations for weeks at the colossal ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach until they reached a tentative deal in June. And screenwriters have been picketing outside the gates of Hollywood studios for about two months.

Hugo Soto-Martinez, a Los Angeles City Council member who worked as an organizer for Unite Here Local 11, said that the breadth of industries locked in labor fights demonstrated frustration especially among younger workers, who have seen inequality widen and opportunities evaporate.

“It’s homelessness, it’s the cost of housing,” he said. “I think people are understanding those issues in a much more palpable way.”

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