As Los Angeles braces for the largest US hotel worker strike in recent memory, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown LA announced it reached a tentative deal for higher pay and benefits Wednesday evening with the union representing its employees.
More than 15,000 union employees at 62 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties are scheduled to walk off the job as soon as Saturday after their contracts expire at midnight on June 30. They are seeking higher pay, which might allow them to live in more expensive areas closer to their jobs, as well as improved benefits and working conditions.
The Bonaventure deal is the first among many that will be needed to avert the planned strike. According to Unite Here Local 11 co-President Kurt Petersen, workers are slated to ratify the deal in the coming days and the agreement will set a standard for other hotels in the region. The Bonaventure is the largest among the hotels in Los Angeles, with more than 600 workers.
“It is the first domino to fall, but it is a big domino. We applaud the Bonaventure for putting the workers and the city first,” Petersen said. “This is the best contract ever for hotel workers in Los Angeles and sets a standard for workers in this city. There is still work to do, but it takes steps as we head towards the World Cup and Olympics.”
Although the exact details of the agreement have not been ratified yet, Petersen said the deal fulfills the “five pillars” of the union’s bargaining plan. Bonaventure workers will receive higher wages, affordable health insurance at less than $20 per month and increases in pension contributions. The agreement also addresses the reduction in daily room cleaning, guaranteeing a restoration of staffing to pre-pandemic levels. Workers who are not currently part of a union will have an opportunity to join unions without intimidation.
In particular, the tentative agreement removes barriers for those who are formerly interested in getting hotel jobs and bans E-Verify for applicants so that workers will not be discriminated against because of their immigration status.
“The Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites has had and continues to have a strong working relationship with Unite Here Local 11,” said hotel Managing Director Bonny Kirin-Perez. “We are glad that we were able to negotiate a contract that is mutually beneficial. We look forward to our continued partnership.”
Armando Garcia, who lives in South LA and has worked at the Bonaventure for 42 years, first as a banquet runner and now as head of stewards, welcomed the deal.
“I am very happy because the first hotel signed the contract,” said 64-year-old Garcia, who hopes to one day pass down his pension to his two children. “This is important for all members for insurance, salary and retirement plans. Life is very expensive now.
At the Unite Here Local 11 headquarters on Thursday, dozens of volunteers and workers gathered to plan and paint large banners in preparation for the potential strike. Meetings adjourned amid chants of “Si, se puede!” (“Yes, it can be done!”).
If the strike happens as planned, it could coincide with numerous events and conventions taking place in Southern California, including the Anime Expo happening July 1-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
“Hopefully many hotels will sign the same agreement,” Petersen said. “[At] those that don’t, workers will strike.”