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About 120 Housekeepers, Cooks and Other Workers
Began a Two-week Strike at the Hyatt West Hollywood

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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 contract proposal.

“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 11.

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), alleging,
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 benefits.
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 hotels.

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 or can’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 it.

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 a million
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 benefits

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 Regional
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
  • St. Regis
  • Sheraton Universal
  • Regent Beverly Wilshire
  • Hyatt West Hollywood
  • Hyatt Regency L.A.
  • Westin Bonaventure
  • Biltmore
  • Wilshire Grand

“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 union’s proposal

(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 for negotiation.

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).

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Contact:

Amanda Cooper
917-533-4050
www.HotelWorkersUnited.org

675 South Park View Street
Los Angeles, California 90057
(213) 738-8180 x286

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Also See: Nine Los Angeles Hotels Present Radically Restructured Economic Proposal to UNITE HERE Local 11; Offers a $1,000 Signing Bonus, Substantial Pay Hike and Free Health Care Aimed to Bring Stalled Contract Talks to a Quick Conclusion / May 2005


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