Striking hotel workers reach a tentative contract agreement with a fifth hotel

SANTA MONICA, CA - JULY 12, 2023 - Jose Ayala, 66, left, walks the picket line with fellow Unite Here Local 11 hotel workers in front of the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica on July 12, 2023. Ayala works as a dishwasher for the Viceroy Hotel and has to work a second job to make ends meet. Some older hotel workers scrape by on their income and can't afford to quit. Some work two jobs just to make ends meet. Unite Here Local 11 hotel employees have been striking for higher pay and better benefits. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Jose Ayala, 66, left, walks the picket line with fellow Unite Here Local 11 hotel workers in front of the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica in July. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Unite Here Local 11, the union representing hotel workers in Southern California who have been striking on and off for nearly five months, said it has reached a tentative contract agreement with Le Merigot Santa Monica.

The contract will — once it’s ratified — raise wages, strengthen pensions and increase investments in healthcare for about 100 employees at Le Merigot,union spokesperson Maria Hernandez said.

Le Merigot, a Marriott hotel, is the fifth property to reach a deal with the union.

The first was the Westin Bonaventure, which reached a tentative deal just as contracts were set to expire June 30 for more than 15,000 hotel workers at some 60 properties in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The second was the Biltmore in downtown L.A.’s financial district, which announced a deal in September. Last month, the union announced agreements with Loews Hollywood and Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point.

“We have now won standard-setting contracts in downtown L.A., Hollywood, Orange County and Santa Monica. There are no excuses for the rest. Workers deserve to share in the prosperity of the tourism industry," said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11.

The union has declined to give specifics on wages and other economic details of the agreements it has reached thus far, and the contracts have not yet been put to a vote by workers.

Keith Grossman, an attorney representing a group of more than 40 Southern California hotel owners and operators in talks with the union, did not respond to a request for comment.

Peter Hillan, spokesperson for the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, said Le Merigot was not a member of the hotel group. Santa Monica hotels that are part of the coordinated bargaining group include Fairmont Miramar, Le Meridien Delfina, Courtyard by Marriott, Hampton Inn & Suites and the Viceroy, Hillan said.

The union held a gathering with faith community leaders Thursday to discuss instances of violence against picketing hotel workers as well as the alleged exploitation of unhoused migrant workers brought in to replace striking workers at Le Meridien Delfina in Santa Monica.

The event, held at St. Augustine By-the-Sea church in Santa Monica was attended by local leaders including former Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin and Santa Monica Human Services Commissioner Luis Barrera Castañón, the union said in a news release.

The union also sent a letter last week to Santa Monica City Attorney Douglas T. Sloan urging the city to investigate possible violations of local laws by Le Meridien Delfina and other hotels that hired migrants as replacement workers.

The letter notes potential violations of hourly wages below Santa Monica's minimum of $19.73 and failures to provide "panic buttons" for workers' safety and related training.

The letter cites reporting by The Times that also prompted an investigation by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón. In the letter, the union said it has also requested that the California labor commissioner investigate the hotels’ and subcontractors’ compliance with state laws regarding itemized wage statements and lunch and rest breaks.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.