For the second consecutive week, non-striking demonstrators engaged in protests outside hotels in Beverly Hills while Unite Here Local 11, the labor union for hospitality workers, continued to coordinate rolling walkouts across Southern California.
Wearing his bellman uniform and a Unite Here pin above his nametag, Alfred Botello, 64, joined a small group of employees of the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, who staged multiple demonstrations outside the hotel on July 19.
Around him, protestors marched in the Beverly Wilshire valet area and carried signs saying, “No Contract, No Peace.” Others banged on drums. Amidst the cacophony of noise and activity, hotel doormen ushered guests into the entrances of the hotel while valet attendants took car keys from visitors pulling into the area.
“It’s nothing against the guests,” Botello, who has worked at the Beverly Wilshire for 25 years, told the Courier. “It’s against the company not negotiating in good faith…what they’re offering us in an insult.”
The Beverly Wilshire declined to comment on the recent activity outside the hotel.
Botello is one of the approximately 500 employees at the Beverly Wilshire who could potentially walk off the job at any moment. On July 1, Unite Here Local 11 declared a strike at approximately 60 hotels across Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The action took place one day after the labor agreement expired for nearly 15,000 hospitality workers, with the first wave of walkouts occurring over the Fourth of July holiday.
The union has organized three waves of walkouts at hotels across Southern California.
No walkouts have yet occurred at any of Beverly Hills’ three unionized hotels. Thus far, only “informational picketing” has taken place at the Beverly Wilshire, the Beverly Hilton and the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. Those participating in the action have done so while in-between shifts. However, Unite Here Local 11 Spokesperson Maria Hernandez told the Courier the situation could change at any moment.
The informational picketing is taking place at Beverly Hills hotels while Unite Here Local 11 continues to demand higher wages and improved healthcare benefits for its members, which include cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front-desk agents.
Most hotel employees under the previous agreement earn $20-$25 per hour. They are seeking an immediate $5 per hour raise and a $3 hourly wage increase for the three subsequent years of their contract.
The Coordinated Bargaining Group, a coalition of more than 44 hotels in Los Angeles, has offered a wage increase of $2.50 per hour in the first 12 months and $6.25 over four years.
On July 18, Coordinated Bargaining Group and Unite Here Local 11 met for the first time since the union began taking workers out on intermittent strikes. The bargaining session talks did not lead to any progress in negotiations, according to representatives of both sides.
“We are extremely disappointed that Local 11 refuses to bargain in good faith,” Keith Grossman, a spokesperson for the hotel coalition and a partner at Santa Monica-based employment law firm Hirschfeld Kraemer, said. “Local 11 continues to signal that it is more interested in its political agenda than negotiating to reach an agreement.”
A statement from Unite Here Local 11 slammed the hotel coalition’s proposal, saying it “did not have one penny more for wages, pension or healthcare.”
On July 19, protestors at the Beverly Wilshire included Jackie Morales, an office coordinator at the Beverly Wilshire who has worked at the hotel since 1989.
“We have to fight for our rights,” Morales, a mother of five who lives in South Los Angeles, told the Courier. “The cost of living is high.”
Perhaps the most distinguishable feature of the July 19 protests outside the Beverly Wilshire was a giant inflatable rat, which sat on the sidewalk outside the hotel’s entrance where folks marched. “Scabby the Rat,” as the union has called the inflatable, has fire-red eyes, exposed fangs and sharp claws. For the past several weeks, the union has brought “Scabby” to protests at hotel sites around the Los Angeles area and shared photos of the rat on the Unite Here Local 11 Twitter account, drumming up awareness for its campaign against the hotels.
Pete Hillan, a spokesperson for the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, has pointed to such tactics as evidence that much of what the union has done is “being done for theater.” Along with calls for improved wages and healthcare benefits, the union has asked for the hotels to charge a new tax on guests that would be allocated toward a housing fund for employees. It has also supported a 2024 ballot measure that requires hotels to rent vacant rooms to the unhoused.
Hillan said these demands were “things outside the authority of hotels to commit to.”
According to Unite Here Local 11, the intermittent strikes successfully deterred the Democratic Governors Association, an independent voluntary political group, from holding its annual summer conference in Beverly Hills. The group was planning to hold a two-day event, beginning July 24, at the Beverly Hilton, the union said. Instead, it will hold the gathering at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites in downtown L.A., which reached a tentative contract deal with the union on June 28.