SANTA MONICA—On Wednesday, July 5, thousands of employees of the hotel industry in southern California including Santa Monica returned to work following a strike that extended into the Fourth of July holiday. 

The Unite Here Local 11 labor union represents over 32,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas, and convention centers across southern California and Arizona.

The union initially requested immediate pay raises of $5.00 an hour for employees currently earning $20.00-$25.00 per hour with $3.00 annual raises to follow in subsequent years of the employee-employer contract.

The hotels’ bargaining group made a counter offer of an increased hourly wage of $2.50 the first year and $6.25 over the next four years guaranteed with continued pension and healthcare benefits.

Large crowds of people were photographed holding signs and sitting down outside area hotels protesting. Hotel workers indicated that they were requesting an increase in pay to be able to afford the rising cost of housing.

Canyon News reached out to Maria Hernandez from The Unite Here Local 11 labor union for a statement. 

“On the eve of the Fourth of July, while hotel CEOs were toasting record profits at their vacation homes in the Hamptons, in a show of incomparable strength, thousands of cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen, and front desk agents walked out in the largest hotel strike in Southern California history. The mass walkout marks just the first wave of strikes and disruption by hotel workers across the region. Workers will not rest until they are paid a wage that allows them to live in the communities where they work. We know the industry can do this – last week, Los Angeles’ biggest hotel, the Westin Bonaventure, agreed to the wages workers need. Now it is time for the other corporations to follow suit. We are grateful for the extraordinary solidarity we have received. This is just the beginning,” said Hernandez.

Joy Johnson, who has worked as a housekeeper for the Courtyard Marriott in Downtown L.A. for five years made the following statement:

“We went on strike to show these companies what we were willing to do to win a fair contract. As I get ready to return to work, I am proud to be part of the first wave of strikes, leading the way for the rest of our union to follow.”

Arturo Hueso, a houseman of 30 years at the Fairmont Miramar – Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica said, “Because of my cancer, I have no choice but to fight to keep my healthcare. I am prepared to fight on the picket line, inside the hotel – whatever it takes. This is a fight for my life.”

Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, says:

“This walkout was the first of many actions that may come this summer by workers at hotels across Southern California, and it is only one tool in our toolbox. We have put the industry on notice that the workers have suffered enough.”