1/10/08

Workers strike against A-list L.A. hotel

Wilshire Plaza Hotel workers walked out on strike this afternoon after facing alleged retaliation by management and other unfair labor practices.

The allegations of retaliation included charges that workers who were subpoenaed by the Federal Government to testify in a National Labor Relations Board hearing had their hours reduced and their working conditions changed, the quality and quantity of the food in the worker cafeteria was decreased, and the hotel will no longer be providing or cleaning uniforms for cooks.

Workers at the Wilshire Plaza Hotel have been represented by a UNITE HERE Local 11 for close to 30 years, but have been working without a union contract since December, 2006. In October, 2007, the Wilshire Plaza Hotel workers and workers at four other hotels in Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike.

The strike comes in the aftermath of a three-week long hearing against the Wilshire Plaza Hotel by the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. The General Counsel has alleged 45 violations against the Wilshire Plaza, which include the failure to make payments to the Health and Welfare funds, resulting in the loss of health coverage for their employees. Workers and their families who rely on medical coverage to treat their illnesses have been forced to cease medical treatment, adversely affecting their physical and mental health.

Soon after the hearing, two critical witnesses, who were subpoenaed by the federal government to testify, faced alleged illegal retaliation for their role in the government hearing. Lester Salazar, a room service waiter, saw his hours drop from approximately 33 hours per week before the hearing to only 12 hours a week now. Noelia Lopez, who has worked at the Hotel for 28 years, was allegedly discriminated against when the Hotel added to her job duties soon after the hearing.

Other allegations in the government complaint include charges that the hotel illegally altered terms of employment by refusing to pay vacation time to its employees, that hotel management interrogated employees about their union involvement and conducted surveillance of their employees to monitor their activities in support of the union. Additionally, workers had their wages reduced to as low as $8.05 per hour. "In my many years with UNITE HERE I have never seen such a vast NLRB complaint issued against a single employer whose employees are represented by Local 11. The Wilshire Plaza Hotel has shown a blatant disregard for its employees, many of whom have given decades of their lives to ensure that this hotel is successful," said Tom Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 11.

(launionaflcio.org)

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