LOS ANGELES (PAI) — Beset by employers demanding givebacks, hotel workers in Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco took to the streets in August and September, culminating in arrests in the latter city on Labor Day.

UNITE HERE Local 2 reported that 130 workers and supporters were arrested in San Francisco’s Union Square after a two-hour sit-down there on Labor Day. The arrests came after more than 600 workers and their backers marched through downtown, demanding that the hotel management coalition bargain in good faith. On Sept. 14, the workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike, if needed, to press their demands.

In Los Angeles, workers narrowly averted a lockout by large hotels on Aug. 12. Demonstrations followed the next day.

Key issues in both cases, involving UNITE HERE Local 2 in San Francisco and Local 11 in Los Angeles, are wages and working conditions — and, in San Francisco, the hotels’ refusal to bring back workers as business has recovered from the tourism slump caused by the nationwide grounding of air travel three years ago.

“We are bringing to the public our struggle for a new contract for hotel workers in the city,” Local 2 Vice President Lamoin Werlein-Jaen told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Key issues in the San Francisco talks also involve pensions, affordable health care, raises, the workload, and a two-year contract to synchronize San Francisco’s hotel pacts with other pacts nationwide. “We’re fighting to build a national movement to unite our brother and sister hotel workers across the country so we may be able to negotiate with more balance with these multinational hotel corporations,” Werlein-Jaen explained.

“They don’t add one person, they squeeze us,” said Francisca Ramos, a 15-year veteran at the Westin St. Francis. She added she hurt her back on the job, always “running, running, running.”

Wages, health care, pensions and the fight for that common contract expiration date led to a Labor Day “Hotel in the Streets” demonstration featuring hotel housekeepers, cooks, waiters and busboys.

That Aug. 13 event “symbolically exposed” working conditions in L.A. hotels, UNITE HERE 11 President — and national union vice president — Maria Elena Durazo said. Those conditions include only one raise, totaling $3 per hour, in the last 15-20 years, unchanged work quotas for 14 years, and lack of health benefits.

“Workers in Los Angeles are fighting for better jobs. Today’s action intends to put their commitment at the forefront of our effort to gain support from the community at large in our struggle for middle class jobs,” said Durazo.

Added Nohelia Ramos, a housekeeper at the Beverly Wilshire: “Hotel workers in Los Angeles, like myself, are employed by multinational companies, such as Hyatt, Starwood, Hilton and Marriott, but workers in this city receive far less pay compared to other workers throughout North America.”

Ramos asked other workers nationwide to “join this multinational struggle to make jobs in the hospitality industry a road to the middle class, not a dead end in poverty.” Most hotel workers in the two cities are immigrants. Many are Hispanic.

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