UNITE HERE Local 11 — the powerful labor union that plays a crucial behind-the-scenes role in West Hollywood politics — flexed its muscles countywide Thursday, coordinating a wave of hotel worker strikes and protests all across the region.
The 59 L.A. area hotels entangled in negotiations have failed to allocate any additional funds for wages, pensions, or healthcare, leaving workers feeling undervalued and unsupported, UNITE HERE claims.
“We have sat down with the hotel management to try to negotiate in good faith, and they just haven’t budged,” David Stookie, a front desk worker at the 1 Hotel, told KNX News.
Decked out in their familiar red T-shirts, two dozen or so UNITE HERE members swarmed the sidewalks outside the 1 Hotel and the Andaz in West Hollywood. Standing next to a giant-sized, demonic looking inflatable rat, they held up signs reading “En Huelga” (“on strike”) and shouted rallying cries in Spanish, cheering whenever a passing car honked in support. Some literally beat the drum to draw attention to the contract negotiation process they feel is unfair.
Noise and disruption are two of UNITE HERE’s most effective weapons in pushing (and sometimes shoving) for better working conditions for hotel workers. With every new due-paying member it can recruit, the bureacracy of the organization, its budget and the ambitions of its bosses expand. The union has in the past put on elaborate, theatrical performance pieces to bring exposure to their causes, and their tactics have at times been criticized as bullying.
UNITE HERE was a crucial force in getting all five WeHo councilmembers elected with the help of their direct mail campaigns and their aggressive ballot harvesting operation. The union also masterminded the controversial hotel worker ordinance and minimum wage increase that were passed last year, and are playing an increasingly more hands-on role in politics throughout the area.
Only the Westin Bonaventure in downtown L.A. has managed to reach a new contract agreement with UNITE HERE’s leadership. In the month of July alone, hotel workers have already gone on strike twice, disrupting operations in downtown L.A., Santa Monica and the vicinity of LAX. The union has threatened that additional walkouts could occur at any given moment.
The rising cost of living in the City of Angels stands as a significant concern for the union, alongside the persisting issue of understaffing, which has failed to improve since the onslaught of the pandemic.
Protests also unfolded in Glendale, San Pedro and Pasadena.