Thousands of hotel workers in Los Angeles and Orange County have initiated a strike. The strike comes after failed contract negotiation attempts with hotel owners.

Supported by an overwhelming 96 percent of union members, the strike aims to address various demands including higher wages, improved pension, and healthcare benefits. Workers also seek the hiring of additional staff to reduce excessive workloads, as hotels, despite receiving billions in federal aid during the pandemic, continue to expect more from their employees.

Wages Are Too Low

Thus far, 21 hotels are feeling the impacts of the strike, with an additional 12 joining in this week. The central demand made by workers is a $5 per hour wage increase in 2023, on top of a starting wage of $20 to $25 per hour. While this may seem substantial, in a city like Los Angeles where the average monthly rent surpasses $2,700, a wage of $31 per hour, based on a 40-hour work week, is merely enough for a family to scrape by.

In reality, to achieve even a semblance of economic stability, families would need to earn significantly more. According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a single parent raising two children in California would require a minimum wage of $56 per hour to meet the basic cost of living.

One Hotel Has Settled On Terms

Photo credit: Westin Bonaventure Los Angeles

To date, only one hotel, the Westin Bonaventure located in Downtown LA, has reached an agreement with its workers by signing a new contract on June 30. Other hotels, including the Hyatt Regency at LAX, have failed to offer favorable deals to their employees.

The strike by hotel workers marks a significant labor action in the industry, occurring alongside other strikes by unions such as the Writers’ Guild in Los Angeles and UPS workers nationwide. The number of major strikes increased by 50 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year, with labor actions continuing in 2023.

Los Angeles hotel workers now find themselves at the forefront of the ongoing battles for workplace dignity and housing security. These struggles reflect the broader challenges faced by workers who can no longer afford to live in the cities where they are employed, particularly in high-cost areas like California.