In LA’s No. 1 job-generating industry, workers say hospitality industry must provide quality jobs to rebuild LA’s economy
More than 600 hotel workers picketed in front of the Hyatt Andaz West Hollywood Friday evening, December 4, calling on the hotel chain to improve working standards in its hotels. The picket and rally marked the expiration of 21 union hotel contracts in Los Angeles, including those at the Hyatt Andaz and the Hyatt Century Plaza. Workers have already begun negotiations with Hyatt management.
"Tourism is the number one job-generating industry in Los Angeles," said Rocksand Ramirez, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Century Plaza. "We must make sure these are good jobs."
According to a LA County Economic Development Corporation report released in June, tourism surpassed international trade as LA’s biggest industry. But an LA Times article reported there is concern among some economists that the news is bad for the LA economy because the hospitality industry creates too many low-paying jobs.
On Friday, Local 11 workers said it doesn’t have to be that way.
"The tourism industry in LA is at a crossroads," said Lorena Lopez, a Local 11 organizer. "The Hyatt and other hotels have the opportunity to take the high road — providing strong union contracts with livable wages and affordable health benefits that act as a boon to our local economy."
Benjamin Leonen, a lead cook at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, a non-union hotel, described the hotel industry’s other option.
"The Hyatt already showed us what the low road looks like when it used the recession as an excuse to fire 100 experienced housekeepers in Boston," Leonen said. "The Hyatt, which made $1.3 billion in profit from 2004 to 2008, fired the housekeepers to replace them with staffing agency employees who make $8 an hour."
Ramirez said she and her co-workers at the Century Plaza are prepared to do whatever it takes to hold on to their affordable health benefits and rights on the job.
"We’ve been preparing for this moment for months," Ramirez said. "We are united, committed and ready to fight for what we deserve."