Los Angeles-area hotel staffers have returned to work following a three-day strike, but union leaders are threatening further walkouts as they strive for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

The strike, which involved several thousand hotel workers represented by Unite Here Local 11, affected 19 hotels in Los Angeles and in the Orange counties during the 4 July holiday weekend.

While the workers are back on the job, the possibility of extended labour actions looms over the region, leaving the impact on Los Angeles’s reputation as a tourist destination uncertain.

Demand for better wages and affordable housing

The primary demand from the union, which represents 15,000 Southern California members, is for pay raises that would enable workers to afford housing within a reasonable commuting distance from their workplaces.

With the high housing costs in the region, many low-wage earners find it challenging to live near their jobs. The workers involved in the strike include housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks, waiters, bellhops and front-desk agents.

Possible future strikes

While the striking hotel workers have returned to their positions, there remains a looming threat of another wave of strikes targeting the remaining 41 hotels in the region whose labour contracts also expired on 30 June 2023.

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Union spokesperson Maria Hernandez warned that the next strike could come “at any moment.” Unite Here urges all 60 hotels involved in the dispute to adopt the terms of a recent settlement reached with the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in downtown Los Angeles, which ended the strike there.

Hotel management’s response

The Coordinated Bargaining Group, representing the hotel owners, has welcomed the employees back to work and expressed their readiness to keep the properties open to guests if further disruptions occur.

Hotel management accuses the union of using the strike as a political tool and failing to negotiate in good faith. However, no further negotiating sessions are currently scheduled, and both sides blame each other for the breakdown in talks.

Impact on Los Angeles economy

The hotel labour clash coincides with the busy summer travel season and the ongoing Hollywood screenwriters’ strike. The combination of these labour disputes is taking a toll on the Los Angeles economy and showbiz production.

With thousands of hotel workers demanding better wages and benefits, the strikes threaten to disrupt the hospitality industry during a crucial period for tourism.