Hotel foodservice workers strike in Los Angeles

The front- and back-of-house employees are part of what their union representatives say is the area's largest walkout in decades, with 15,000 workers involved.
people demonstrating
More than 200 people were arrested during demonstrations a week before the strike. | Photo: Shutterstock

Dishwashers, cooks, servers and other foodservice workers employed by Los Angeles-area hotels walked off their jobs Sunday in what labor leaders called the largest strike local hospitality employers have seen in decades.

The union representing the strikers, Unite Here Local 11, estimated that 15,000 workers participated in the job action, which was still underway as of this posting. That number could not be confirmed, but media reports based on eyewitness accounts also put the number in the thousands.

The walkout was timed to disrupt the local tourism business on the busy July Fourth holiday weekend. In addition, Local 11 officials accused the involved hotels of using the holiday to further delay agreement on new labor contracts involving an estimated 100 hotels.

The union indicated that employees of 61 properties were set to strike as of Sunday. The properties are located as far south as Irvine, in Orange County.

The union is demanding a wage increase of $19 an hour over the next three years, starting with an immediate bump of $5 and then $3 increases in each of the three subsequent years.

The labor group says the increases are necessary to help workers catch up with Los Angeles’ rising cost of living. They cite a spike in local housing costs as one of the biggest issues.

Employees have also asserted that they should share in the economic benefits the area is likely to reap from hosting World Cup soccer games in 2026 and the Olympics in 2028.

Local 11 reached a preliminary contract agreement with one of the area’s best-known and largest hotels, the Westin Bonaventure, last week. According to leaked details about that pact, healthcare benefits will be adjusted so that employees’ contributions do not exceed $20 per month, and the hotel’s contribution to workers’ retirement accounts will be increased. The wage increase included in the deal was not revealed.

The strike is the latest sign of increased union activism within the restaurant and lodging industries. It comes as the tally of Starbucks units whose staffs have voted to join the Service Employees International Unit has risen to at least 315.

Unions have also succeeded in organizing at least one branch of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Peet’s Coffee, along with a number of small regional coffee specialists.

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