Raucous picket protests hit the sidewalks outside the Hilton and Sheraton Park Hotel in the Anaheim Resort. Hotel workers represented by Unite Here Local 11 banged on drums yesterday afternoon while chanting “Sí, se puede!” The noise from the all-day picket intended to send a message loud and clear that workers are ready to fight for a contract that ups wages to $25 an hour.
Resort-area hotel workers took action in conjunction with other pickets at the Westin Bonaventure, Fairmont Miramar and Beverly Wilshire hotels in Los Angeles County. In all, 7,500 workers at 24 hotels across LA and OC overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike if five key contract negotiation demands aren’t met. The union is seeking affordable health insurance, sexual harassment panic buttons, better pensions, workplace protections for immigrant workers and a $25 hourly wage by the end of a four-year contract.
“The truth is there’s nothing more essential than being together speaking with one voice,” said Ada Briceño, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, in Spanish during a rally outside the Hilton at dusk. “We feel great pride knowing that 96 percent of all the workers decided to go on strike.” The labor leader told hotel workers that if the bosses at the Hilton and Sheraton didn’t compromise on the five points, they’d be faced with a strike.
According to the union, this year has seen more hotel strikes across the country than any other with Unite Here involved in 17 work stoppages alone–including in Boston where the Dodgers infamously crossed the picket line at the Ritz-Carlton during the World Series. Month-long strikes in Hawaii and San Francisco recently ended with contract settlements on the eve of the new labor disputes in Southern California.
The Weekly awaits comment on the strike vote from the Hilton, but the Sheraton offered its thoughts in the meantime.
“As a top hospitality employer, we operate in accordance with all Federal and California labor laws and are committed to maintaining positive relations with all of our associates,” a statement on behalf of the Sheraton reads. “As such, we are currently in the midst of negotiations with the labor union that represents some of our employees. However, our collective bargaining agreement expired on November 26, 2018. While we continue to negotiate in good faith with the union to achieve a new agreement, we support our associates’ right to decide whether to participate in activities protected by federal labor laws.”
The demand for a $25 hourly wage comes on the heels of a recently settled contract between Unite Here Local 11 and the Disneyland Resort raising the minimum wage up to $15 an hour next year at its three hotels, a raise that brought them closer to parity with other union hotel employees in the Anaheim Resort like the Hilton and Sheraton. The picket enjoyed outside support from other unions and politicians throughout the day–including former Anaheim mayoral hopeful Ashleigh Aitken who showed she can dance tamborazo during a festive moment of the protest.
“We need a dignified wage,” Irayda Torres, a Hilton housekeeper, tells the Weekly in Spanish. “The cost of living is very expensive. A one-bedroom apartment costs $1,500 a month here in Anaheim, where all the tourism is.” The Nicaraguan immigrant just completed 29 years on the job. Above and beyond the five points the union is fighting for is respect, she says. Housekeepers routinely face having to clean 14 rooms per shift, a workload that sometimes entails skipping breaks in order to complete. Non-tipped hotel workers currently make $16.01 an hour, Torres adds.
Taking place on Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, a revered Catholic holiday honoring when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before a man named Juan Diego in Mexico, the mostly Latina hotel workers ended their protest picket in prayer and song, including improvised verses of “La Guadalupana,” where la madre blesses their fight for a fair contract.
“It’s going to be a fierce struggle,” says Torres. “Our message to the company is that we are ready to strike.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!