A protest at the Fairmont
An altercation at the hotel was one of two over the weekend Credit: Scott Snowden

The union representing local hospitality workers has filed a complaint with the state regulators over allegations that protesters have been assaulted while picketing at Southern California Hotels.

Unite Here Local 11 announced the filing on Monday citing several recent incidents.

In the Santa Monica case, a video shows an altercation between the Fairmont Miramar’s private security and protesters where the hotel’s driveway meets the sidewalk. The security guards can be seen pinning protesters to the ground and the union alleges they were attacked at the conclusion of a peaceful march between two hotels.

The California Labor Code gives protesters limited access to the private property of an employer when they are involved in a labor dispute with that employer. Picketers cannot obstruct access to the property, interfere with the business of the employer or engage in criminal activity but a 2012 court ruling makes it difficult to restrict access to private property outside those restrictions.

Also on Saturday, the Unite Here said protesters were punched by a guest while the Maya Hotel tried to forcibly relocate a picket line using a chain link fence.

The union alleges they have also been threatened with violence by guests at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Dana Point,

“The Union alleges that hotel security personnel have failed to assist the Union in identifying guests who have engaged in such conduct, and, in one instance, a hotel security leader allegedly told a guest who had threatened to assault workers that the guest should do what he wanted to do and that the security head would testify on the guest’s behalf,” said their statement. Unite Here also alleges chef John Tesar, the chef behind the Laguna Cliffs’ Knife Modern Steak restaurant broke a protesters drum and insulted them during a protest.

The incidents have prompted the union to file an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the hotel industry’s Coordinated Bargaining Group, which represents a majority of LA’s unionized hotel employers, including Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, and Marriott.

Unite Here Local 11 represents about 15,000 hotel and hospitality workers in California, including room attendants, dishwashers, cooks, front desk attendants, bellmen, cooks and dishwashers. The union says it is seeking better pay and benefits, which workers say they need because housing, groceries, gas and other basic needs are becoming increasingly unaffordable on their current salaries. Room attendants, the lowest paid workers in hotels, range from $20 to $25 an hour.

The union wants a $5-an-hour raise with an additional $3-an-hour raise for 2024 and 2025. The hotels are offering wage increases of $2.50 per hour in the first 12 months of the contract and $6.25 an hour over the next four years. The two sides have been at odds since July 1 when the current contract expired and strikes began across the region.

The union has also filed two ballot measures in Santa Monica since the start of the strike. The first seeks to increase the minimum wage for hotel workers to $30 per hour. They aim to ensure nightly room sanitation and cleaning by hotels, prohibit the use of contract or temporary employees for room cleaning, hold hotels accountable for violations by temporary staffing agencies, and limit the workload on custodial staff.

Currently, hotel workers in the area are paid a wage of $19.73 per hour. The union’s expired contract with hotel operators provided a minimum hourly wage of $20-$25. They now demand an immediate $5-an-hour raise with an additional $3-an-hour raise for 2024 and 2025. The hotels have proposed wage increases of $2.50 per hour in the first year and $6.25 per hour over the following four years, along with maintaining current health care plans and pension contributions.

The second would increase taxes paid by visitors in the city for the purpose of funding new housing for hotel employees. The proposed initiative seeks to impose an additional 7% tax on hotel rooms and a 15% fee on home-share/vacation rentals. The funds would be managed by a new seven-member committee dedicated to providing affordable housing for hospitality workers.

Currently, the city already imposes a 15% tax on hotel room rentals and a 17% tax on home-share rentals. If the new initiative is approved, the total tax on hotels would rise to 22%, and for home shares, it would increase to 32%.


* Correction/Clarification: The minimum wage ballot measure applies to all hotel workers in the city. Santa Monica’s existing rules allow Unite Here to negotiate pay rates below the minimum wage in exchange for other benefits pending approval by members.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...