Striking LA Hotel Workers Want Help With Affordable Housing Shortage

Thousands of hotel workers in Los Angeles have entered their fifth week of strikes, demanding higher wages, improved healthcare benefits, and some effort into solving the city’s affordable housing shortage. 

The strike, organized by Unite Here Local 11, represents over 15,000 cooks, housekeepers, dishwashers, and other hospitality employees across Southern California.

Union leaders argue that skyrocketing housing costs have negated previous wage gains and that the hotel industry should share responsibility in addressing this issue. As part of their demands, the union is seeking an $11-an-hour wage increase over three years and a 7% fee or government tax to fund affordable housing for hotel workers. 

They are also requesting assistance, such as loans, for workers facing housing instability. Additionally, the union is pushing for a 2024 city ballot measure that would require hotel owners to offer vacant rooms to homeless individuals.

Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, stressed the urgency of the situation, noting that members are increasingly living paycheck to paycheck due to housing costs. The escalating disparity between housing expenses and wages has led to significant challenges for Los Angeles service workers and other low-income residents.

“We are pushing the edge, but look, our members are living paycheck to paycheck more than ever, I would argue, because of the cost of housing,” said Petersen said. 

According to Apartment List, median monthly rents in the Los Angeles metro area surged by 24% to $2,100 between 2017 and 2022. This substantial increase has created a wide gap between housing costs and the minimum hourly wage for Unite Here hotel workers, currently set at a minimum of $19.

“Beyond the hotel’s control”

However, a group representing 44 Los Angeles hotels has filed unfair labor practice charges against Unite Here, accusing the union of introducing demands unrelated to labor contracts. The Hotel Association of Los Angeles claims that the union is seeking measures beyond the hotels’ control, such as an affordable housing policy. 

Spokesperson Pete Hillan expressed concerns about the potential negative impact on the hospitality industry, particularly if hotels were required to house homeless individuals alongside paying guests.

“They’re asking for things that are beyond the hotel’s control,” Hillan said. “We cannot be held responsible for an issue that has been decades in the making because of failed policies.”

As negotiations have stalled, the strike’s impact has begun to ripple through the city. The Japanese American Citizens League National Convention shifted venues from the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown to the Westin Bonaventure in response to the labor action. The Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel postponed the W.K. Kellogg Foundation convention, originally scheduled for July 13, in solidarity with the striking workers.

Open Letter to Taylor Swift

Amidst the ongoing strike, attention has turned to pop superstar Taylor Swift, who is scheduled to hold a six-night series of concerts in Los Angeles as part of her “Eras” tour, which is poised to become the “highest-grossing tour of all time.” 

The union reached out to Swift, urging her to stand in solidarity with the striking workers. In an open letter, signed by numerous California politicians, including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, the union highlighted the financial benefits that hotels would reap from Swift’s performances while workers continue to struggle with housing affordability.

Information for this story was found via CNN, Forbes, CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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