L.A. hotel strike: Union gets deal with Beverly Wilshire, strikes in Anaheim

Unite Here Local 11 has reached a tentative agreement with a 10th hotel, marking continued momentum in the contract campaign it began earlier this year.

The deal with the Beverly Wilshire was reached days after the union nailed down agreements with two other major Beverly Hills hotels, the Beverly Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria.

It comes as Unite Here Local 11 ramps up pressure in contract negotiations with hotels operated by Aimbridge Hospitality, which has faced sharp criticism from union officials and others for hiring unhoused refugees from Venezuela and Colombia to replace workers during recent strikes in at least two hotels it operates, the Holiday Inn LAX and Pasadena Hilton.

Union employees of Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort, within a short walk of the Disneyland Resort’s entrance, went on strike Wednesday. The Sheraton Park Hotel is operated by Aimbridge Hospitality.

Dave Williams, a human resources representative at Aimbridge Hospitality, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hotels are among 60 hotel sites in Los Angeles and Orange counties hit by a series of sporadic strikes after contracts covering more than 15,000 housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers and front desk workers expired June 30.

The union has declined to give specifics on wages and other economic details of the 10 agreements it has reached thus far, and the contracts have not yet been put to a vote by workers. Union spokesperson Maria Hernandez has said that the contracts — once ratified by workers at the various hotels — will raise wages, strengthen pensions and increase investments in healthcare.

Peter Hillan, a spokesperson for the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, said he could not comment on the recent tentative agreements. He has repeatedly voiced skepticism about the transparency of the deals, particularly those reached early in the strike that are now several months old.

“If that’s really a ready-to-go deal, it should be put forth for ratification,” Hillan said. “We’ve been curious why those haven’t come forth to their membership.”

The Beverly Wilshire had been part of a coordinated bargaining group said to represent owners and operators of more than 40 Southern California properties. Of the 10 hotels to reach agreements, at least four had been members of the bargaining group.

Keith Grossman, an attorney representing the coordinated group in talks with the union, did not respond to a request for comment.

Alba Gonzalez, 61, who has worked as a housekeeper at the Beverly Wilshire for 14 years, announced the agreement to workers who gathered in the Beverly Wilshire’s employee cafeteria Tuesday.

Gonzalez, who has been on a leave of absence from her housekeeping job for about 10 months to work as an organizer with the union, said that before she delivered the news she first wanted to test the energy and resolve of workers.

“What do we want?” she yelled. The group shouted: “contract.”

“Are you ready for more strikes?” she asked. The response was a resounding yes.

“I’ve been dreaming that we win this contract,” Gonzalez said in an interview.

She does not know the details of the contract reached but has been assured it makes significant gains on “five pillars” the union has touted in its campaign: wage increases, healthcare, workload and staffing levels, pension increases, and improved hiring access for formerly incarcerated people and undocumented immigrants.

The campaign, Gonzalez said, has been grueling at times. Although workers at the Beverly Wilshire walked off the job only once in the more than five months of rolling strikes, they have spent most of that time picketing outside the hotel, starting early in the morning, five days a week on average, Gonzalez said.

Alex Perez, who has worked at the front desk at the hotel for 11 years, said the strike has been particularly challenging in his department.

“The front desk is really the go-to outlet for questions and of anything going on in the hotel. We bear the brunt of their frustrations. … It’s a very delicate dance,” he said. “Guests know I’m a part of the same union that’s keeping them awake in the mornings. It’s not an easy position to be in.”

Both Perez and Gonzalez said they have been through several contract campaigns over the years, but none as contentious as this one.

As an organizer, Gonzalez said she’s had to put on a brave face for younger workers grappling with their first contract campaign, who have at times voiced uncertainty. Several older workers — some of whom have worked at the Beverly Wilshire for as long as 40 years — regularly join the picket lines and have helped to boost morale and inspire newer workers, she said.

“I’m relieved and grateful,” Perez said. “My thoughts are with workers at other hotels who don’t have an agreement yet. I’m hopeful those hotels will see what’s happening and find deals for their workers too.”

At the Sheraton Park Hotel in Anaheim, the work stoppage is aimed at escalating pressure on dozens of hotels that remain without a contract, particularly those operated by Aimbridge Hospitality, union spokesperson Hernandez said.

Aimbridge’s eight hotels that don’t yet have contract agreements have been given a Saturday “strike deadline” to come to an agreement with the union or workers will go on strike, she said.

Aimbridge is owned by private equity firm Advent International, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *