Hotel workers throughout Southern California are starting to strike at 18 hotels in the region while employees at other hotels could walkout at any time.
Just two days after contracts expired, workers walked out on Sunday as they demand $5 more an hour to help cover rising housing costs, kicking off the largest hotel strike in recent history.
Ada Briceño, co-president of Unite Here Local 11 – a union which represents tens of thousands of hotel workers in Southern California and Arizona, said in a Sunday phone interview some employees are couch surfing.
“We’re striking because people’s livelihood is unaffordable now. Rents are sky high,” she said. “We need to adjust our pay so people can keep a roof over their heads.”
It comes right before the Fourth of July holiday and after union hotel workers overwhelmingly voted to strike last month.
Briceño said picket lines have formed outside the Laguna Cliffs Hotel in Dana Point, with workers carrying signs and others banging drums. She said the strike started at 3 a.m. Sunday.
She adds more could join workers striking at 18 hotels throughout Southern California at any moment.
The union is trying to secure $5 an hour more for workers during the first year of the new contract followed by an annual $3 bump in the second and third year.
The law firms of Keith Grossman, Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP & Ken Ballard, as well as Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt LLP, issued a statement on behalf of the bargaining group negotiating for hotels in OC and Los Angeles.
“From the outset, the Union has shown no desire to engage in productive, good faith negotiations with this group,” reads the statement. “The Union has not budged from its opening demand two months ago of up to a 40% wage increase and an over 28% increase in benefit costs.”
According to the statement, hoteliers offered wage increases of $2.50 per hour in the first 12 months and $6.25 over 4 years.
The Anaheim/Orange County Hotel and Lodging Association did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.
The strike was authorized in June with a 96% vote.
Workers at other hotels in OC including the Marriott Irvine, Irvine Hilton, the Balboa Bay Club, Hilton Anaheim, Sheraton Park, Costa Mesa Hilton, and the Embassy Suites in Irvine may soon join in.
Beyond pay, workers are looking for safer conditions on the job and the restoration of daily room cleanings after they were eliminated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to union representatives, the average pay for a room attendant in Orange County is $17.50 an hour.
The strike comes just days after an OC hotel employee filed a class action lawsuit against the Irvine Hilton for allegedly violating the city’s recently adopted hotel worker protection ordinance.
It also comes the same week city council members in Anaheim – home to the Disneyland resort – voted to send a similar ordinance to the ballot in a $1.6 million special election in October.
That proposed ordinance, spearheaded by Unite Here, would also guarantee a $25 an hour minimum wage for hotel workers throughout Anaheim.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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