Planners with upcoming meetings in Southern California should watch developments there closely in the next few days or weeks. This year of hotel strikes, with thousands of workers on picket lines across the country, may not yet be over.
On Dec. 6, 7,500 employees at 24 hotels across several hotel companies in Los Angeles and Orange counties voted to strike if a new contract was not ratified by yesterday.
Although a strike has not officially begun, and contract negotiations are continuing, news reports indicate picketing is already underway at four hotels. The four properties are The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Los Angeles, Beverly Wilshire (a Four Seasons Hotel) in Beverly Hills, Hilton Anaheim and Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort.
Workers’ issues are higher pay, better health care and pensions, panic buttons for housekeepers and other demands.
“We are asking that this contract get workers to $25 an hour,” Kurt Peterson, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, which represents front-desk attendants, housekeepers and hotel restaurant workers in Southern California, told Los Angeles Times. “L.A. has one of the highest costs of living in the country, and our booming tourism industry can afford to pay its workers a living wage.”
The union is emboldened by its successful recent strikes in 10 U.S. cities and Hawaii. All of them ended with new labor agreements being won.
Many of the two dozen Southern California hotels targeted are operated by Marriott International and Hilton Hotels & Resorts. In a statement, a Marriott spokesperson said, “We respect the right of our associates to voice their opinions on issues that are important to them. Should the union and our employees choose to strike, our hotels will continue to operate and work to minimize any disruption.”
The threatened labor action underscores the importance for planners of doing due diligence on issues such as potential labor actions when negotiating contracts with suppliers, noted Jonathan T. Howe, president and senior founding partner of Howe & Hutton, a Chicago law firm that specializes in the event industry.
“It’s difficult to have a plan B without knowing what will happen to plan A,” Howe said, “but good planners keep themselves up to speed.”