L.A. hotel strike: Beverly Hilton, union reach tentative deal

Unite Here Local 11, the union representing hotel workers in Southern California who have been striking on and off for more than five months, said it has reached a tentative contract agreement with the Beverly Hilton that covers more than 500 unionized workers.

The Beverly Hills hotel, longtime host of the annual Golden Globe Awards, is the sixth property to reach a deal with the union. It was among some 60 hotel sites in Los Angeles and Orange counties hit by a series of short rolling strikes after contracts covering more than 15,000 housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and front desk workers expired June 30.

The union has declined to give specifics on wages and other economic details of the agreements it has reached thus far, and the contracts have not yet been put to a vote by workers. Union spokesperson Maria Hernandez has said that the contracts — once ratified by workers at the various hotels — will raise wages, strengthen pensions and increase investments in healthcare.

The Beverly Hilton announcement comes at the start of Hollywood’s awards season, with Golden Globe nominations expected to be announced Monday morning at the hotel.

“The hotel and union are pleased to announce their deal just before what promises to be an especially celebratory awards season on the heels of the actors’ and writers’ own labor disputes,” the union said in an emailed statement Friday.

Unite Here Local 11 co-President Kurt Petersen praised the hotel as “a leader in Beverly Hills” and urged the city’s other hotels targeted by the strike — the Fairmont Century Plaza and the Beverly Wilshire — to “quickly follow suit.”

“Hotel workers at the Beverly Hilton are eager to kick off the awards season now that Hollywood is back in full swing because they have a contract with a living wage,” Petersen said in the statement.

Peter Hillan, a spokesperson for the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, said the trade group couldn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Keith Grossman, an attorney representing a group of more than 40 Southern California hotel owners and operators in talks with the union, did not respond to a request for comment. The Beverly Hilton initially was part of that negotiating group but subsequently left the group, a union spokesperson said.

The heated labor dispute has persisted for months. Noisy early morning picket lines, with hotel workers in red union shirts banging drums and blowing horns, have become a familiar scene at many L.A.-area hotels.

Local trade associations representing hotels have criticized the strike as damaging to the regional tourism economy. Workers say they can’t afford to live near their jobs anymore in Southern California’s overheated housing market.

This week marked an escalation in hotel worker protests. Housekeepers, cooks and other workers, as well as staff organizers with Unite Here Local 11, set up camp outside two hotels on Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport early Wednesday morning.

Dozens of tents line the sidewalk outside the Sheraton Gateway and Four Points Sheraton LAX; over the tents dangle string lights and clotheslines festooned with laundry, including lacy lingerie and baby onesies. In front of the Sheraton Gateway hangs a large yellow banner reading “Occupy.”

Workers protest in shifts, with some sleeping there overnight. The union hauled in portable toilets for protesting workers, and at night when the temperature drops, union staffers help shivering and bundled-up workers light heat lamps.

Housekeepers interviewed Thursday night said they are frustrated by months of tense negotiations and years of what they describe as heavier workloads for wages that are unlivable.

Sheraton Gateway housekeepers said they make a $19.80 hourly wage. Unite Here Local 11 spokesperson Maria Teresa Kamel said that of the hotels in talks with the union, workers near LAX tend to have some of the most depressed wages.

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