Support grows as hotel workers carry out rolling strikes in LA

By Norton Sandler
August 7, 2023
Striking UNITE HERE Local 11 members march in Los Angeles July 21. “Strikes can happen anytime, anyplace,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of the Local, said of the union’s rolling walkouts.
Militant/Bill ArthStriking UNITE HERE Local 11 members march in Los Angeles July 21. “Strikes can happen anytime, anyplace,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of the Local, said of the union’s rolling walkouts.

LOS ANGELES — Chanting “On strike. Shut it down. L.A. is a union town,” hundreds of striking hotel workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 11, were joined by striking actors and writers at the W Hotel here near the Hollywood Walk of Fame July 21. They marched from the hotel to the picket line and rally of hundreds more Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Writers Guild of America strikers in front of the Netflix offices.

This is the third wave of strikes by UNITE HERE. The hotel workers union isn’t striking at all hotels simultaneously, instead organizing rolling walkouts, Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, told the media. “Strikes can happen anytime, anyplace.” The latest strikes include three hotels in Hollywood, three in Glendale and Pasadena, and one in San Pedro.

Joe McQueen, a member of SAG-AFTRA since 1996, told the Militant he also does food delivery to make a living. “I stand with my brothers and sisters. It’s about greed and power. If we do this they’ll have to back down. This shows there is strength in numbers.”

Luis Garcia, a striker with Local 11, has worked at the W Hotel for two years. “We are asking for better salaries and benefits,” he said.

Tye Justis works more than one job to make ends meet. He’s a front desk assistant at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica and also a home health care worker, and makes time to audition for acting jobs. After participating in the July 4 walkout at the Viceroy, he is now picketing at Fox Studios in Century City. “We can all strike in solidarity because we’re all fighting for the same thing,” he said.

Strikes in this area are increasingly marked by trade unions joining together in protests, marches and pickets. On July 19, 500 participated in a rally organized by the Teamsters union in downtown Los Angeles where national union President Sean O’Brien spoke. Members of the Writers Guild, SAG-AFTRA, and UNITE HERE joined the action, and leaders of their unions spoke.

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union joined hotel workers in a lively picket outside the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro July 21.

UNITE HERE organizer María Meza told the Militant that housekeepers are being forced by Doubletree bosses to clean 12 checkout rooms or 18 stay-over rooms a day.

Longshore worker Tony Rosellini said he used to work for the Marriott. “When you are in a hotel,” he said, “you want a clean room and safe, good food. It’s these workers that make it happen. It’s important to stand with them. Conditions are bad. There is no air conditioning in the hallways where they work or where the dishwashers work.”

Michael Vera from the ILWU’s Inlandboatmen’s union told the Militant that he supports all unions in struggle. “This is taking place in my backyard and San Pedro is a union town.”

Local 11 Co-President Petersen said in negotiations earlier in the week the new wage proposal from the hotel bosses moved backwards. He said hotel representatives walked out of the meeting after the union proposed employers offer permanent jobs to replacement workers brought in during the strike.

For years the unions have pressed for the hotels to hire more African American workers. Many of the replacement workers are Black.