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Thousands of Southern California hotel workers have walked off the job


In Southern California, thousands of hotel workers are on strike. They walked off the job yesterday in a bid for better pay and benefits. Libby Rainey with LAist News reports.


LIBBY RAINEY, BYLINE: At the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, scores of employees on Sunday weren't inside working but were outside picketing.


RAINEY: These are housekeepers, dishwashers, servers and front-line workers at some of the nation's most recognizable and ritziest hotels, like the Beverly Hilton. These employees say Los Angeles just isn't affordable anymore, and that's why they're demanding a major raise. Jose Zuniga was picketing on Sunday.

JOSE ZUNIGA: Expensive, expensive to live in LA. It's super hard when you have to pay rent, when you have to pay gas, especially rent in LA is just tremendous.

RAINEY: Hotel workers like Zuniga make, on average, about $25 an hour. They're asking for an immediate $5 per hour hike with raises totaling $11 over three years. Cristina Betancourt works at the Ritz-Carlton.

CRISTINA BETANCOURT: Eighty-five percent of my income goes towards rent because I just moved to LA. So it's really hard to even find a place in LA that you can afford on one income.

RAINEY: Betancourt also says her schedule is impossible to predict due to the elimination of daily room cleaning, a policy many hotels implemented during the pandemic. The union she belongs to, Unite Here Local 11, is also bargaining for manageable staffing workloads and better health care. One large hotel, the Westin Bonaventure, made a tentative deal with the union last week, averting a strike there. But contracts at more than 60 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties have lapsed. A spokesman for the bargaining group representing dozens of the hotels said they remain open for business and they're ready to keep negotiating. Workers like Zuniga say they're willing to stay on the picket lines until they get what they're asking for.

ZUNIGA: I'm getting ready for however long it takes.

RAINEY: The hotel industry says elected officials should be held accountable for the skyrocketing cost of housing, not them.

For NPR News, I'm Libby Rainey in Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUO SIRC'S "IMMERSION") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Libby Rainey