DOWNTOWN — Housekeepers and servers employed by the DoubleTree Suites in Santa Monica said during a rally Tuesday outside of the hotel that their bosses pile on so much work that they miss their breaks and they want state and city officials to investigate.
The rally comes as calls for better working conditions and higher wages gather steam nationally at major employers like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart. Debate rages in Washington, D.C. over whether to hike the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats have called for the pay hike, saying it would make workers more productive and help lift them out of poverty, while opponents point to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office that said the raise would lead to the loss of about half a million jobs by late 2016.
At Tuesday’s rally, which was attended by roughly 50 hotel employees, union organizers and clergy said workers are entitled to two 10-minute breaks during a regular shift. At least three filed formal complaints with hotel management and were said to have alerted the California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement.
For every day that a break is missed, the worker is entitled to one hour of back pay from their employer, according to Unite Here Local 11, which represents hospitality workers.
“I almost never take my rest breaks,” said Carlos Tavares, a banquet server at the DoubleTree Suites hotel. “When I miss my breaks, I do not get paid extra.”
JD Smith, general manager at the hotel, said the allegations will be investigated. He said the hotel received complaints from just three employees, one of whom works for a temp agency.
“We take this very seriously and we are looking into it,” he said. “We just found out about this today. … It’s up to each individual employee to take their breaks.”
The protest is the first to hit tourism-dependent Santa Monica in recent years. Back in 2001, hotel workers and residents joined hands in fighting for a living wage law that the City Council approved. It impacted only business in Downtown and along the coast who grossed millions annually.
Opponents gathered enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot roughly a year later and after a contentious campaign the law was ultimately defeated. The council instead voted to require city contractors to pay a living wage and has recently, in the form of development agreements, required those wishing to build new hotels to pay a much higher hourly-wage — around $15.
City officials are considering raising the hourly wage for city employees to the same level required by hotel developers.
Tourism is big business in Santa Monica, generating roughly $1 billion in city revenue and supporting over 10,000 jobs, according to the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau.