SoCal hoteliers file unfair labor practice charge over housing issues

Union demands for political and financial support “unlawful,” hotels attorney contends

(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)
(Photo Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

Southern California hotel owners have struck back against what they say is an unlawful labor strike over the July 4 holiday weekend.

A group of owners has filed an unfair labor practice charge accusing Unite Here Local 11 of striking over policy proposals that have “nothing to do” with the employees it represents, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The hotel owners have taken issue with the union’s demands that hotels support housing initiatives, both politically and financially.

The union has asked hotels to publicly endorse a measure set for the ballot next year that would require hospitality properties in Los Angeles to rent vacant rooms to homeless people. 

The union has also pressured hotels to agree to levy a 7 percent fee on all room sales for a fund to help hotel workers obtain affordable housing.

Pushing for such provisions in a contract settlement and then striking over them is “not only unlawful, but it is also a real obstacle to reaching agreement on a contract,” Keith Grossman, an attorney with Hirschfeld Kraemer, one of two firms representing the hotel coalition, told the Times in an emailed statement.

“If the union really wanted an agreement to help the employees, it would have dropped these issues long ago instead of taking employees out on strike over them,” Grossman said.

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The hotel bargaining group, which represents 44 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties, filed the unfair labor practice charge June 30 with the National Labor Relations Board. The union bargained in bad faith by striking over “nonmandatory subjects,” the group alleged in the filing.

The charge came as thousands of workers at more than a dozen hotels involved in negotiations returned to work Wednesday after three days on the picket line over wages and benefits. Union officials dismissed the accusations.

Unite Here Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen said the union’s proposals aim to help Angelenos most affected by the housing crisis. They include hotel workers who struggle to find housing or face eviction in the pricey neighborhoods around where they work. 

Coming off a busy weekend during which Downtown L.A. hotels charge $600 or more per night for a room, the hotel group’s claim “rings really hollow,” Petersen told the Times.

“I’m not sure what they are arguing, because we are allowed to bargain over anything we want at the table,” he said. “They should stop paying their lawyers … to file frivolous complaints and instead pay their workers a living wage.”

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— Dana Bartholomew