Hotel workers strike continues amid busy 4th of July holiday

Workers at several major hotels in Southern California remained on strike Tuesday amid the busy Fourth of July holiday, forming picket lines beginning in pre-dawn hours at many hotels and marching in downtown Los Angeles in an effort to secure higher pay and improvements in health care and retirement benefits.

The strike began Sunday when thousands of workers walked off the job at hotels across downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica including the InterContinental in downtown Los Angeles, JW Marriott LA Live, Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Hotel Figueroa, Le Meridien Delfina Santa Monica, Viceroy Santa Monica, Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Sheraton Universal Hotel, DoubleTree Los Angeles and Laguna Cliffs in Dana Point.

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On Tuesday, workers were seen marching on sidewalks in front of hotels, chanting, waving signs and in some cases banging drums as they walked. The workers include thousands of cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellhops and front desk agents.

The union, which represents up to 15,000 workers employed at 65 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties, had announced Friday in an Instagram post that its members "could strike at any moment" during the Fourth of July weekend.

The contract between the hotels and Unite Here Local 11 expired at 12:01 a.m. Saturday although the union reached a deal Wednesday night with the largest of its employers, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles.

Contract agreements are unresolved with the remaining hotels.

Hotel officials said they will resume operations as normal and nonunion staff will fill in temporarily.

On June 8, 96% of the union's members approved a strike authorization. Union officials said a recent survey of its members showed that 53% said they have moved in the past five years or will move in the near future because of soaring housing costs in the Los Angeles area.

Union officials said their members earn $20 to $25 an hour. Negotiators are asking for an immediate $5 an hour raise and an additional $3 an hour in subsequent years of the contract along with improvements in health care and retirement benefits.

The union is also seeking to create a hospitality workforce housing fund. Many union members say they're now commuting hours from areas like Apple Valley, Palmdale, California City and Victorville.

With the Westin contract settled, the Coordinated Bargaining Group is negotiating on behalf of 44 of the other unionized hotels. The remaining 21 hotels would adhere to that same agreement.

City News Service contributed to this report.