|Los Angeles, CA - June 9, 2005 – Workers at the Hyatt West Hollywood
walked off the job today to protest the actions of the Los Angeles Hotel
Employer’s Council (EC). Workers are on strike because they want the Los
Angeles Hotel Employer’s Council (EC) to return the more than half a million
dollars in health care co-pays that the EC hotels collected from workers
between July 2004 and February 2005.
The National Labor Relations Board now alleges that the hotels collected
that money illegally and has announced plans to issue complaints against
the hotels for 63 unfair labor practices. The union met with the EC recently
to try and settle the charges, but the EC showed no interest in reaching
a settlement. Workers are striking for two weeks to raise awareness of
these alleged abuses of labor law, and to try to get the hotels to stop
using possibly illegal tactics to pressure them into accepting an unfair
“When the hotels started charging me for my healthcare I was really
upset. I am a single mother with three kids. I am already struggling as
it is,” explained Morena Hernandez, a housekeeper at the Hyatt West Hollywood
for 8 years. “While I was paying for the health insurance, I had to cut
back on groceries and bus tokens for my daughter to use to get to school.
Ten dollars a week might be just a little for some people, but it’s a lot
for me. I want that money back.”
The contract covering approximately 3,000 hotel workers represented
by UNITE HERE Local 11 expired in April, 2004. Workers stood together to
demand a strong contract, and were met with resistance by the EC hotels.
In July, 2004, after workers voted overwhelmingly to reject the EC’s “final”
proposal, the EC unilaterally implemented a health care co-pay of $40/month
that many workers could not afford. The union asked the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate the situation.
In January, 2005, the General Counsel of the NLRB informed the EC and
the union he had found probable cause to take the EC to trial, alleging
they had broken the law by not bargaining with the union in good faith,
trying to stifle union members’ communication with their representatives
and the public, and instituting the health care co-pays.
More than 500 families dropped their health care plans because of the
increased cost. Some parents placed their children in taxpayer supported
plans to try and keep them healthy. One family incurred more than $17,000
in health care costs.
Chronology of the issue of the money
workers paid for health benefits
June 22, 2004 – The Los Angeles Hotel Employer’s Council (EC)
declares an impasse has been reached in negotiations with UNITE HERE Local
June 25, 2004 – The EC informs the union that, if it rejects
the EC’s “final” contract proposal, the EC will unilaterally implement
several changes to
workers’ terms and conditions of employment (which are set out in the
collective bargaining agreement that had expired on April 15, 2004),
including imposing a charge on workers if they wish to maintain their
previously free family health benefits.
July 1, 2004 – UNITE HERE Local 11 files unfair labor practice
charges against the EC with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB),
among other charges, that a good faith impasse has not been reached
and that it is illegal for the EC to make workers pay to keep their health
July 1, 2004 – In a secret ballot vote, Local 11 members reject the
EC’s “final” contract offer by a margin of 92% to 8%.
July 2, 2004 – The EC implements a requirement that employees
who wish to maintain their health benefits must pay $40/month to the EC
July 16, 2004 – More than 100 hotel workers and their children,
accompanied by members of the clergy and community groups, protest at the
Century Plaza Hotel against the EC’s decision to charge workers $40/month
if they wish to maintain their health benefits.
July and August 2004 – Starting in these months, EC hotels stop
making any contributions for health benefits on behalf of workers who don’t
make the $40/month co-payment. Those workers and their families go
without any health coverage except taxpayer-funded care.
January 26, 2005 – The General Counsel of the NLRB informs the
union and the EC that he has found probable cause to take the EC to trial
over its allegedly unfair labor practices, including charging workers $40/month
for health benefits and stopping contributions for those who don’t pay
February 16, 2005 – The EC hotels announce that they will end
the practice of charging workers for health benefits retroactive only to
February 1, 2005. They do not return the workers’ money (in excess of half
dollars) or make up the missing contributions for those who didn’t
make the co-payments (in excess of one million dollars) between July 2004
and January 2005. The hotels also refuse to pay for medical and hospital
costs of those who lost their coverage.
March 10, 2005 – One thousand hotel workers demonstrate at the
Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, demanding that the Employer's Council
hotels return the money they forced workers to pay to maintain their health
May 26, 2005 – Hotel and union representatives meet with the
Los Angeles Regional Director of the NLRB for the purpose of discussing
possible settlement of the charges. The hotel representatives inform the
Director they are not prepared to settle the charges in the absence
of “labor peace”. The Regional Director replies that she would then issue
a complaint and take the charges to trial.
NOTE: At the time the EC implemented the health benefit co-payment,
in July 2004, the EC members were:
Westin Century Plaza
Regent Beverly Wilshire
Hyatt West Hollywood
Hyatt Regency L.A.
“In December 2004 my insurance was cut off. My whole family depends
on my health insurance from the hotel. My young daughter and I are diabetic.
I had to put my daughter on Medi-Cal. In order to get insulin I had to
go to a church clinic. To this day, I still do not have health insurance,”
explained Veronica Flores, a room attendant at the Century Plaza.
The hotels collected more than $300 each from many of these low-income
families, and more than $650,000 in total. For the workers who didn’t make
the copayments, the EC hotels also stopped paying into the workers’ health
and welfare fund that covers their insurance costs, leaving the fund short
more than $1.5 million. The workers need that money back.
In addition to the Hyatt West Hollywood, the other Employer’s Council
hotels are the Westin Bonaventure, Sheraton Universal, Regent Beverly Wilshire,
Westin Century Plaza, Wilshire Grand, and the Millennium Biltmore.
“Nothing is more sacred to all of us than the health of our families.
By threatening our members’ health care, the hotel’s attacked our workers
where we are all most vulnerable. But rather than backing down, workers
stood together, and today they are taking a stand for their rights,” says
Tom Walsh, Secretary Treasurer of Local 11. “These out of town owners and
operators need to pay the workers, their health care fund, and our community
hospitals back for this attack. This is the only way they can show the
workers and the taxpayers of Los Angeles County the respect they deserve.”
Second Los Angeles Employer’s Council Hotel
Backs 2-Year Contract with Union
Seven other hotels have already signed onto the
(Los Angeles, CA) June 6, 2005 - The Millennium Biltmore Hotel
in downtown Los Angeles has told UNITE HERE Local 11 that it will advocate
through the Employer’s Council for a contract expiring in 2006. The Biltmore’s
decision comes less than two weeks after the Wilshire Grand Hotel reached
a similar understanding with the union.
Both hotels are now at odds with the stated position of the seven-member
Los Angeles Hotel Employer’s Council (EC) to which they belong. Since the
opening of negotiations between the EC and the union in April, 2004, the
EC has refused to consider a Los Angeles contract expiring in 2006, a period
when hotel contracts in many other North American cities will also be up
In addition to the Millennium Biltmore and the Wilshire Grand, the remaining
EC hotels are the Westin Bonaventure, Westin Century Plaza, Sheraton Universal,
Hyatt West Hollywood, and Regent Beverly Wilshire.
“The solidarity of the hotel workers and the effectiveness of our boycott
are paying off,” said Tom Walsh, Executive Secretary Treasurer of UNITE
HERE Local 11. “More and more hotels that are not operated by global corporations
like Starwood and Hyatt are saying they’d rather settle than fight with
their employees. We hope more EC hotels will reach the same conclusion.”
Seven other Los Angeles hotels that are not part of the EC have already
signed a 2004-2006 agreement with the union. They are the Beverly Hilton,
Bel Air, Luxe Summit Rodeo Drive, Holiday Inn Downtown, Radisson Wilshire
Plaza, Sportsmen’s Lodge, and the newly re-flagged Sheraton Los Angeles
(formerly the Hyatt Regency).