Thousands of hotel workers in Los Angeles, California have held the largest-ever strike, demanding an increase in pay and better benefits.

The strike was declared by Unite Here Local 11, which represents 15,000 workers at over 60 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Workers whose contracts expired a day before the strike are part of this union.

The union stated that the hotel workers, including cooks, housekeepers, waiters, dishwashers, bellhops and front-desk agents, are struggling to afford housing in the cities where they work.

Most of them lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic while industry profits soared, the union officials explained.

The union co-president Kurt Petersen said: “Our members were devastated first by the pandemic and now by the greed of their bosses.”

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The union spokesperson Maria Hernandez stated that thousands of workers walked off the job at many hotels and the numbers are expected to increase as the strike wears on.

Workers from hotels, including Hotel Indigo, the InterContinental, JW Marriott LA Live and Millennium Biltmore, the Sheraton Universal in Universal City, Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point and the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, were first to join the strike.

In addition to demanding better wages and benefits, Unite Here Local 11 is also seeking the creation of a hospitality workforce housing fund.

Conversely, Reuters reported that an industry bargaining group, which represents over 40 hotels, has accused the union of political posturing, pursuing the strike as an organising tool that is failing to negotiate in good faith.

The group further said its hotels would stay open for business during the strikes, with management and non-union staff standing in for striking workers.