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Possible Hotel Workers' Strike Looms

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Another potential local strike is on the horizon, proving once again that events in Los Angeles are critical to the evolution of the organized labor movement.

Eighty-three percent of the 75% of Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee (HERE) Local 11 members who voted Monday authorized a strike if negotiations with the nine members of the Hotel Employer’s Council collapse. The hotels involved have already taken a page from the book of supermarket labor management and signed a lockout pact in preparation for a walkout. These upscale hospitality businesses include the Millennium Biltmore downtown, the Westin Century Plaza Hotel and Spa, Regent Beverly Wilshire, and the Westin Bonaventure.

In addition to benefits and contract length issues, Unite HERE’s Local 11’s 2,800 workers demand a pay scale commensurate with hotel union jobs in major American cities such as New York, where the average hourly wage is just shy of $19. This rate is nearly double that of the approximately $11 per hour that hotel workers in LA take home. Peter Hurtgen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, was called in after the union rejected the package offered by the Hotel Employer’s Council. Hurtgen is very familiar to LA labor parties, as he was a key figure in the recent grocery worker and dockworker strikes.

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Consternation is high on both sides of the issue in this city that’s still reeling from recent ugly labor disputes. Although only a minority of hotels located in LA area would directly feel the impact (approximately 15% of hotel workers in the city have union representation), many civic and business leaders are already wringing their hands at the prospect should the negotiations fail. Some minimize the possible broad-scale and long-term effects and are more concerned about small nuisance issues. But there’s clearly a lot at stake with these negotiations that began several months ago. Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, explained to the Daily News that "We have just begun to see some sign of a recovery and, if there's a strike…it would impact the entire hotel industry in the city." Labor leaders, management, economists, and activists are eager to witness the outcome, since Unite HERE is considered to be at the forefront of progressive labor activism in the U.S.

LAist encourages honoring all picket lines should the strikes happen, even if it means refraining from bourgeois pleasures such as cocktails at the top of the Bonaventure revolving bar, decadent and delicious high tea at the Beverly Wilshire (please be sure to harass tourists on the Pretty Woman tour route), and martinis amidst the splendor of the Biltmore’s Gallery Bar.