LA hotel boycott remains strong

LOS ANGELES — Last Dec. 17, representatives from UNITE-HERE Local 11 rejected the contract proposal from the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council, stating that the employers’ counteroffer was “a slap in the face.” On Jan. 15, the actual birth date of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it was the workers who did the slapping.

In a loud display of defiance, the workers picketed the Wilshire Grand Hotel, one of nine luxury hotels that are represented by the hotel employers group. The workers brought their pots and pans and banged them as they chanted to guests to “Check out!” To those guests who didn’t observe the picket line, they chanted, “Shame on you!”

Sylvia Caranza and Anna Cortez, members of Local 11, were on the picket line. They said no new talks were scheduled. Workers are facing reduced hours and layoffs by continuing the boycott of the nine hotels, they said, but they are willing to sacrifice to get the best contract, one that has a common expiration date with contracts in other cities like San Francisco and Washington.

Wages in LA lag far behind those in other cities because hotel employees are historically “whipsawed” against their fellow workers at other hotels.

“The workers at these hotels have given decades of their lives and they are asking for what is right,” Caranza said. “It is unfair what the hotels are doing to these workers who have given so much of their lives here.”

UNITE-HERE Local 25, which represents hotel workers in Washington, has just agreed to a new contract that expires in 2006. Similarly, the Beverly Hills Hotel agreed to a new contract that expires in 2006. Setting a common contract expiration date has been the main demand of the union since the beginning of the dispute.

The LA hotel employers’ representative has hinted the hotels may lock out the workers if the union does not agree to a new contract before contracts expire in other cities like Boston and New York.

Other hotels, including the Metro LA Holiday Inn, the Radisson Wilshire Plaza Hotel, and the Beverly Hills Hotel are unaffected by the boycott. They all have contracts with Local 11.