Hospitality workers ratify new contract with 34 Southern California hotels, press 30 others to sign

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thousands of Southern California hospitality workers overwhelmingly ratified a new contract with 34 hotels after repeated strikes since the summer, their union announced Monday.

Workers won higher pay, increased employer contributions to pensions, and fair workload guarantees among other provisions of a contract that received 98% approval, Unite Here Local 11 said in a summary of highlights of the pact which runs until Jan. 15, 2028. The union has yet to reach settlements with 30 other hotels.

Room attendants, cooks and other non-tipped workers will receive wage hikes of $10 an hour over the term of the contract, representing a 40% to 50% increase, the union said. Half of the increase will come in the first year.

Room attendants at most hotels will earn $35 an hour by July 2027 and top cooks will earn $41 an hour, the union said. Tipped workers will see such improvements as double-time pay for holidays, vacation, sick days and increased shares of service charges. Automatic 20% gratuities at full-service restaurants will be 100% shared by staff.

The union also stressed that the contract maintains health insurance in which workers pay no more than $20 monthly for full family coverage.

“We have won a life-changing contract that transforms hotel jobs from low-wage service work to middle-class professional positions,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of Local 11, told workers at a rally outside a downtown Los Angeles hotel.

The coalition of hotels involved in talks with the union welcomed the deal.

“The ratification votes are a long time coming. We’re glad that hotel employees who have been waiting months now can enjoy the benefits of new contracts, including increased compensation, and continue the great work they do for our guests and our communities,” said Pete Hillan, a spokesperson for the California Hotel & Lodging Association.

Characterizing their demands as a fight for wages that will allow members to live in the cities where they work, more than 10,000 employees in greater Los Angeles began rolling strikes at 52 hotels in July 2023. Workers repeatedly went on strike, picketed and later returned to work. The union represents 15,000 workers but staff at some hotels have not engaged in strikes.

The union scored a major achievement just before the wave of strikes when a tentative agreement was reached with its biggest employer, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles, which has more than 600 union workers. Other hotels gradually came to terms with the strike actions.

Petersen also pointed out that the new contract expires just months before the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

“We’re demanding a new deal for the Olympics that includes family-sustaining jobs and affordable housing for workers. And let me say, if they do not give us that new deal, are we ready to do what it takes?” he said to cheers from workers.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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