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Striking hotel workers launch new wave of walkouts in Santa Monica

Striking Southern California hotel workers launched a new wave of multi-day walkouts in Santa Monica on Monday, Sept. 25 as they continue to call for higher wages and an end to violence on picket lines.

They demonstrated in front of the Fairmont Santa Monica, Viceroy Santa Monica, Hampton Inn Suites Santa Monica, Courtyard Santa Monica and Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica.

An estimated 15,000 Southland hotel workers, represented by Unite Here Local 11, launched their strike over July 4 weekend. They have waged a series of walkouts since the action began in what has become the largest hotel strike in U.S. history.

The union is seeking an immediate $5-an-hour wage increase for all hotel workers in addition to continued family healthcare coverage, upgrades to their pension plan and “humane workloads.”

Housekeepers currently average $20 to $25 an hour. They are demanding higher wages to keep pace with the rising cost of housing so they can afford to live in the city where they work, union officials said.

Unite Here Local 11 is seeking an immediate $5-an-hour wage increase for all hotel workers in addition to continued family healthcare coverage, upgrades to their pension plan and “humane workloads.” (Photo courtesy of Unite Here Local 11)

Kurt Petersen, Unite Here’s co-president, said the tentative labor agreement that was reached Sunday between screenwriters and Hollywood studios may spur the hotels to come to an agreement.

“It’s a good sign for us,” he said. “It gives momentum to our fight and will hopefully help the employers decide to end this. They are the ones who can do that.”

The Coordinated Bargaining Group, which is representing the hotels in labor negotiations, said it has remained available and ready to negotiate since July 18.

“The Sept. 21 meeting took place only after it was proposed by the CBG,” the group said. “Unfortunately, Local 11 made no real movement and what it proposed only took the parties further apart.”

Unite Here recently filed an unfair labor practice charge against CBG.

The action also targets human resources directors with the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, Hotel Maya in Long Beach and Marriott Laguna Cliffs Resort and Spa in Dana Point, claiming those parties, along with their agents and/or supervisors, have condoned violence against hotel workers in response to their union activities.

In one Aug. 5 incident at the Fairmont, dishwasher German Martinez said he was tackled to the ground by hotel security as the workers sought to set up a picket line.

Martinez said his knees are still sore from the attack, leaving him unable to stand for long periods of time.

“I felt completely let down by the company,” he said.

More recently, Unite Here said the JW Marriott LA Live summoned the LAPD against picketing workers and their supporters who were detained and cited for using drums during a peaceful demonstration.

The employers have refused to acknowledge the violence, union officials said, much less commit to ending it.

Workers have called for a boycott of hotels across Los Angeles until the companies put an end to the violence and agree to a contract with living wages.

CBG spokesman Keith Grossman said Unite Here’s tactics send a message that the union is not prepared to bargain in good faith.

“We believe it’s time for the union to engage in real negotiations,” he said.

Labor unrest has become rampant throughout Southern California.

Striking Hollywood actors have yet to reach a labor agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, comprised of at least a dozen unions at Kaiser facilities in seven states, issued a 10-day strike notice Friday, Sept. 22.

Workers claim they’re severely understaffed and underpaid and are prepared to walk off the job Oct. 4 if they can’t reach a labor agreement with the healthcare giant.

Kaiser said it would continue to bargain in good faith and has proposed across-the-board pay increases, including a minimum starting wage of $21 an hour. The company said a goal it made with the coalition to add 10,000 union jobs this year is nearly met with 9,700 roles filled.

“Our philosophy is to provide pay that is up to 10% above market,” the company said. “We also always strive to make healthcare more affordable for our patients, members and customers.”

Source: Orange County Register

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