Thousands of SoCal hotel workers go on strike amid summer travel season

The strike continues for thousands of hospitality workers employed at major hotels across Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The strike began Sunday during the Fourth of July holiday weekend as workers formed picket lines at many of the businesses in an effort to secure higher pay and improvements in health care and retirement benefits.

"This morning, thousands of cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen, and front desk agents at multiple properties walked out on the largest multi-hotel strike in the local’s history," a statement from UNITE HERE Local 11, the labor union representing more than 15,000 hospitality workers in Southern California, said. 

UNITE HERE tweeted pictures of workers picketing Sunday morning at sites 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 and DoubleTree Los Angeles.

"For 14 years I saw how my mother worked as a housekeeper and fought hard to raise me. I am striking because it is my turn to fight for a better future for me and my son," said Jennifer Flores, front desk supervisor at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown.

According to the union, hotel workers in June voted 96% in favor of authorizing a strike. 

The union is seeking to create a hospitality workforce housing fund, in addition to better wages, healthcare benefits, pension and safer workloads. 

File photo of hotel housekeeper (Photo by Marcus Brandt/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In a UNITE HERE Local 11 survey, 53% of workers said that they either have moved in the past 5 years or will move in the near future because of soaring housing costs. 

Hotel workers report commuting hours from areas like Apple Valley, Palmdale, California City and Victorville.

In a statement to FOX 11, representatives for a group of more than 40 LA and Orange County hotels said that the union "has shown no desire to engage in productive, good faith negotiations with this group."

Hotel representatives said they've offered a wage increase for employees of $2.50 per hour in the first year and $6.25 over the next four years, and called protests like one near LAX several weeks ago "stunts"

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 L.A.

Contract agreements are unresolved with the remaining hotels.

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.

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.