LA hotel workers fight for contract

By Bill Arth
October 23, 2023

LOS ANGELES — Some three dozen striking hotel workers, beating drums and plastic buckets and blowing on vuvuzelas, picketed the Westin hotel near the Los Angeles airport Oct. 7. They were protesting the latest contract offer from the bosses, an association of 40 hotels here, that would significantly increase workers’ medical care costs.

The hotel workers’ union, UNITE HERE Local 11, has organized rolling strikes by its 15,000 members for more than three months. Hotel workers in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills went on strike last week. On Oct. 6, workers struck eight hotels near the airport.

Two hotels, Westin Bonaventure and Biltmore Los Angeles, have broken ranks with the owners’ association and signed tentative contracts. Workers say these agreements meet many of the union’s demands, including more inclusive hiring procedures for formerly incarcerated people and an end to the use of E-verify, which is used to cut out immigrant workers.

Jeffrey Santos, who has worked 18 years as a banquet server, told Laura Garza, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from California, that he works “at five different hotels to get enough hours. Banquet servers get minimum wage plus a service charge and need to work 60 hours a month to be eligible for benefits. The hotels are trying to raise the number of hours.”

Santos said he had bought a house in Compton in 2019 for $300,000, a fixer-upper, but now the same house would cost $600,000. “Workers can’t afford it.”

“We need a movement of the working class so we can get to the point where we can take power out of the hands of the capitalists,” Garza said. “That’s the only way we can even begin to make things livable, to remove housing and health care from the profit system.”