Hotel workers at the JW Marriott, Sheraton Grand, Hotel Figueroa and several other properties, primarily in downtown Los Angeles, walked off the job early Wednesday morning in an action timed to coincide with the start of the American Political Science Assn.'s annual conference.
It's the latest wave of rolling strikes by Southern California hotel housekeepers, front desk workers, cooks and other employees that began nearly two months ago. Union members are striking at 13 hotels in this round of walkouts.
The union representing striking hotel workers, Unite Here Local 11, last week called for a boycott of some 60 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties that haven’t agreed to new labor contracts, urging that all conventions held in the Los Angeles area should “stay away from strike-ready hotels.” The union lists the hotels without contracts on its website and asks that people “not patronize” them.
Union officials slammed leaders of the political science organization, which counts more than 11,000 academics and other political scientists as members, for refusing to cancel its L.A. meeting despite the ongoing hotel walkouts.
"Dirty rooms and nonstop noise will be the only amenities" for professors coming into town for the conference, said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, in a Wednesday news release.
Earlier this summer Unite Here Local 11 had urged the academic association to cancel or move its conference — scheduled for Thursday through Sunday — to respect the strike. But the organization declined to do so, noting in a July 28 statement on its website that it would cost $2.8 million to cancel.
The association’s leadership cited negative effects to the local economy and members of the group who are from marginalized communities, calling its predicament a “no-win situation.”
“After careful consideration, we feel that in light of the interests of our membership — especially underrepresented scholars, scholars from the Global South, and non-tenured scholars — we must maintain the Meeting in Los Angeles,” the statement said.
Some political scientists were outraged, arguing that the statement was disingenuous and aimed to distract from anti-worker sentiment.
In which APSA somehow argues that supporting striking workers will harm other workers and is also suddenly very concerned about the plight of precarious labor in academia. You cannot make this stuff up https://t.co/aZbA4G1dzr pic.twitter.com/XWJLmSG7PM
— Thea Riofrancos (@triofrancos) July 28, 2023
After facing backlash from members, the group announced on its website that hundreds of panels previously scheduled to be held in the JW Marriott would be relocated to the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The association did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Occidental College professor Peter Dreier said at a rally by hotel workers last week that leadership of the American Political Science Assn. had “run roughshod” over the wishes of many of its members. Dreier said many academics have since canceled their plans to attend the conference, and he predicts there will be low turnout.
Keith Grossman, an attorney with Hirschfeld Kraemer who represents a coalition of 44 hotels involved in talks with Unite Here Local 11, said the union's call for a convention boycott will hurt the city and small businesses that depend on conventions.
“It defies logic that the union would ignore our offer to negotiate but would instead focus on pursuing its political goals directly hurting our employees’ current and future earnings and our local communities by trying to drive business away," Grossman said in a Monday statement.
Grossman said the last negotiation session was held July 18 and "ended with the union refusing to engage" despite the coalition presenting "a solid" wage and benefits offer. He said the hotel coalition is calling on Unite Here Local 11 to return to the bargaining table after Labor Day.
In its proposal — which the union rejected — the hotel group offered an initial hourly pay raise of $2, which would go into effect after ratification of a new contract, and several subsequent raises amounting to a $6.25 per hour total increase by July 2027.
Striking hotel workers are demanding a $5 immediate hourly wage increase and a $3 boost each subsequent year of the three-year contract, for a total raise of $11.
The downtown Los Angeles hotels where workers have walked out are:
Sheraton Grand Los Angeles, Financial District
Biltmore Los Angeles, Financial District
Courtyard Los Angeles L.A. Live, South Park
E-Central, South Park
Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles, South Park
Residence Inn Los Angeles L.A. Live, South Park
Hotel Indigo, South Park
JW Marriott, South Park
Hotel Figueroa, South Park
InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, Metro Center
DoubleTree by Hilton, Little Tokyo
Downtown LA Proper Hotel, South Park
Fairmont Miramar, Santa Monica
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.