Tentative agreements reached between hotel management and employees of the Beverly Hilton, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and the Beverly Wilshire on Dec. 8, Dec. 9 and Dec. 13, respectively, promise improved pay, benefits and working conditions while signaling the end of months of strategic work stoppages.
Representatives for Unite Here Local 11, the union representing housekeepers, front desk staff and restaurant employees at the three Beverly Hills hotels as well as thousands of other workers across Southern California, declined to immediately comment on the details of compensation and benefits offered in the agreements. The deals must be ratified by a majority of union members to be finalized. A date for a vote had not been set as of press time, Unite Here spokesperson Maria Hernandez told the Courier.
The announcement of tentative contracts came as preparations for the Golden Globes, scheduled for Jan. 7, were underway at the Beverly Hilton.
So far, the three unionized hotels located in Beverly Hills and seven others in Southern California have worked out deals with Unite Here. Representatives for the Fairmont Century Plaza, located just west of the city’s border with Century City, were also among those in ongoing negotiations with the union.
“This new contract will allow me to spend more time with my kids, and retire with dignity,” Beverly Hilton housekeeper Ana Cortez wrote in a statement from the union.
The union had been in contract discussions with 60 southern California hotels, and had initially proposed an immediate $5 per hour raise and two $3 bumps over the following two years, for a total increase of $11 hourly. An early counteroffer from the Coordinated Bargaining Group negotiating for dozens of Los Angeles and Orange County-area hotels put forth a $2 per hour raise upon contract ratification and a $1 per hour raise in 2024. Under previous contracts, union members earned between $20 to $25 per hour, Hernandez said.
As many as 96% of Unite Here members voted to authorize rolling strikes on June 8. In July, clusters of employees began participating in walkouts, each lasting several days at a time.
In Beverly Hills, rows of hotel employees with red shirts, placards, drums and bullhorns gathered on scheduled strike days outside of the city’s three unionized hotels. A giant inflatable rat dubbed “Scabby” loomed over Santa Monica Boulevard, near Wilshire Boulevard, warning people against crossing picket lines as workers marched up and down the street shouting “no contract, no peace,” and other slogans.
The demonstrations garnered supportive honks from motorists, media attention, and even a live performance from Rage Against the Machine Guitarist Tom Morello, who joined employees walking out of the Waldorf Astoria on Sept. 29. But they also drew complaints from nearby residents, which became the basis of a lawsuit the city of Beverly Hills filed against Unite Here in August.
The city’s lawsuit requested an injunction curbing picketing between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. It accused union members of ignoring instructions to bring down noise levels during early morning demonstrations, hiring “contract protestors,” and claimed they had “aggressive confrontations” with hotel staff.
Union officials argued that noise complaints were the result of what they described as an illegal road closure by the Beverly Hilton. In a letter signed by Petersen and addressed to the City Council on Nov. 15, they claimed barriers erected by the Beverly Hilton along Merv Griffin Way forced picketers to demonstrate in the area of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, closer to residential areas.
“As a consequence of that, we weren’t picketing there or inside the driveway,” Petersen said in an interview with the Courier Nov. 16. “We were out there where, apparently, neighbors were upset. Well, this all goes back to the hotel and their illegal closure and the city’s complete, I would say discriminatory, negligent [oversight].”
Petersen went on to say he believed authorities have unfairly targeted striking employees with legal action. He noted that union members have been cited for activities as benign as setting up a temporary canopy to protect picketing workers from the summer heat.
Outside of demonstrations, the union had also been circulating a petition filed in July that would require hotels in Beverly Hills to pay their employees $30 per hour. If it gets signed by 10% of the city’s registered voters by Sunday, Jan. 21, residents may wind up voting on the matter.
Updates on the progress of the petition were not immediately available.