Workers in Southern California Hotels Authorize Strike

The largest hotel walkout in U.S. history, according to the union, could occur in Los Angeles and Orange County as early as July 4th weekend.

Unite Here Local 11 Hotel Workers
Members of Unite Here Local 11 during yesterday's vote to authorize a strike. Photo Credit: Unite Here Local 11

Unite Here Local 11, the hospitality union that represents more than 32,000 room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, front-desk agents, servers and food-service workers in Southern California, voted overwhelmingly Thursday to authorize a strike. The move, which passed with 96 percent of the vote, means the union could call for a strike as early as July 4th weekend. Contracts are set to expire June 30th.

The action would include more than 15,000 workers across dozens of hotels in Los Angeles and Orange County. That would be the largest hotel worker strike in modern U.S. history, according to the union. Affected hotel employers include Accor, Highgate, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott.

A strike also could portend more labor unrest to come across the country. Los Angeles is just one of some two dozen U.S. cities with hospitality contracts that are due to expire within the next year and a half.

"During the pandemic, hotels received $15 billion in federal bailouts and cut jobs and guest services, such as daily room cleaning," reads a statement from Unite Here Local 11. "In 2023, hotel profits in Los Angeles and Orange County exceeded prepandemic levels, yet hospitality workers continue to struggle to afford a place to live in the cities where they work."

According a Unite Here Local 11 survey, 53 percent of workers said they either have moved in the past five years or will move in the near future due to soaring housing costs.

"I commute two hours from my home in Apple Valley to downtown Los Angeles," said Brenda Mendoza, a uniform attendant at the JW Marriott LA Live, who voted to authorize a strike. "I deserve to make enough money to live near where I work."

Among the union's demands are an immediate $5-an-hour wage increase, affordable family health care, a pension that will provide more security in retirement, and a "safe and humane" workload. Negotiations began April 30, although the union claims that the hotel industry has yet to propose any wage hikes.

"Hotel workers who work in the booming Los Angeles tourism industry must be able to live in Los Angeles," said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11. "The industry shamelessly exploited the pandemic and is now reaping greater profits than ever before. Yet workers cannot afford to pay the rent. This 96 percent vote to authorize a strike sends a clear message to the industry that workers have reached their limit and are prepared to strike to secure a living wage."

The region is in the spotlight as it prepares to host two major sporting events, the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2028 Olympic Games. "Unite Here Local 11 is calling on the industry and political leadership to use the events to transform tourism jobs into family-sustaining jobs, and to solve the housing crisis," the union's statement reads.