We’re halfway through 2023, and so far it’s lived up to experts’ predictions of being one of the most active years for labor strikes in recent memory. Below is a round-up of some of this year’s most significant strikes and strike authorizations.
LAUSD Teachers’ Strike
In late March, workers for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second largest public school system, embarked on a three-day strike hoping to secure pay increases as the cost of living in Southern California rapidly outpaced their wages.
The worker’s efforts were ultimately successful. In April, LAUSD ratified a contract negotiated with the teachers’ union, UTLA, that raises teachers’ pay by 21% over the course of three years, bringing the average LAUSD teacher salary to $106,000 by 2025. The agreement also included salary increases for LAUSD’s nurses, mental health workers, and special education teachers, along with promises to reduce class sizes. More than 94% of the 27,171 ballots cast by UTLA members were in favor of the new contract.
Hollywood Writers’ Strike
On May 2, the membership of the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA), a union representing approximately 11,500 Hollywood writers, went on strike. Hollywood writers are fighting against numerous trends in the entertainment industry that have caused their pay and job security to decline significantly over the past decade while industry profits have ballooned, particularly for the likes of streaming companies such as Netflix, which reported a $5.6 billion operating profit for 2022.
The writer’s strike is still ongoing with no end in sight. Highly anticipated TV projects such as “Stranger Things” and a “Game of Thrones” spinoff have been delayed and other major series are expected to be postponed. Beyond the changes Americans may see on their television screens, the strike also figures to have significant consequences for the economy at-large. The last writers’ strike in 2008 cost the California economy $2.1 billion as writers and countless other workers that support the entertainment industry– designers, electricians, grips, and restaurant workers – felt the crunch of the work stoppage.
UNITE HERE Local 11 Strike Authorization
On June 9, members of UNITE HERE Local 11, a union representing service and hospitality workers across the American Southwest, overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike. The union could now call for 15,000 of its members across dozens of Southern California hotels to strike. Doing so would amount to the largest industry wide strike in U.S. history.
The top priority for the hotel workers is securing higher wages to combat the persistent rising cost of living in Southern California. Even though Hotel profits in Los Angeles and Orange County now exceed their pre-pandemic levels, the workers that form the backbone of their operations still struggle to make ends meet.
A strike may take place as early as July 4th weekend.
Teukolsky Law commends workers for the gains they’ve made this year and recognizes them for the courage it takes to put themselves on the picket line.
Last week, UNITE HERE Local 11, a union that represents service and hospitality workers across the American Southwest, asked 15,000 of its southern California members to vote on a strike authorization. Workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize the strike, with 96% of Local 11 members voting in favor. The strike authorization is a significant step towards convincing the region’s hotel operators to consider pay increases for their workers, many of which struggle to make ends meet.
Local 11’s move comes less than a month before 62 of its contracts with Southern California hotels are set to expire. For months, the union and hotels have attempted to negotiate new agreements but have failed to reach a consensus on Local 11’s proposals, including pay increases for its members and other provisions meant to address employees’ healthcare, pensions, work eligibility, and issues related to understaffing.
As California has emerged from the pandemic, the hospitality and tourism industries have roared back, with visitor spending expected to set new records in 2023. However, the workers that form the backbone of the two industries have largely not reaped the rewards of rebound. Rent hikes and increased living costs continue to force many hotel workers out of their homes while their employers fail to address persistently low wages.
Teukolsky Law stands in solidarity with Southern California’s hotel workers and commends the work Local 11 is doing to ensure workers are fairly compensated and protected heading into the summer.
Lauren Teukolsky was quoted by Bloomberg Law and Law360 in a pair of articles discussing the class action lawsuit Teukolsky Law filed Wednesday against Hyatt for violating a law meant to protect hotel cleaning staff from being overworked and underpaid. The lawsuit is believed to be the first in the country brought under a “housekeepers bill of rights” law. Ms. Teukolsky represents the plaintiffs along with Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.
“Housekeeper’s bill of rights” laws broadly refer to laws created specifically to protect hotel cleaning staff from abuses at the workplace, including but not limited to wage theft and sexual harassment. The lawsuit filed by Ms. Teukolsky alleges that Hyatt violated the Long Beach Hotel Working Conditions Ordinance when it failed to pay hotel room attendants the required double wages they were owed for cleaning more than 4,000 square feet in a single day, among other violations.
Laws similar to Long Beach’s have been passed in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Seattle, in what has become a national trend of local municipalities stepping in to protect workers when their states and the federal government fail to.
Bloomberg Law’s article reads:
“’The voters of Long Beach passed a hotel workload ordinance to guarantee hardworking room attendants a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,’ Teukolsky said in a statement. ‘As we say in the lawsuit, Hyatt has been flouting the law since the day it was passed.’”
In the Law360 article, Ms. Teukolsky states the following :
"Hotels are on notice that they can't cheat workers out of their wages with impunity.”
To read the Bloomberg Law article in its entirety, click here. To read the Law360 article in its entirety, click here.
If you believe that you have not been paid proper wages, click here to get in touch with our office.
Teukolsky Law Files Class Action Lawsuit Against Hyatt Under Local WORKLOAD ORDINANCE, The First Of Its Kind in the CountRy
Teukolsky Law filed a class action lawsuit today against the Hyatt Regency Long Beach alleging that Hyatt violated the Long Beach Hotel Working Conditions Initiative (“Initiative”), a measure passed by voters in 2018 to provide protections to hotel workers. A number of cities have passed similar hotel worker ordinances, including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Seattle, and Oakland, among others. This is the first lawsuit in the country brought under one of these “Housekeepers’ Bill of Rights” laws. Lauren Teukolsky represents the plaintiffs along with Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.
The Initiative protects hotel employees against the risk of sexual assault by requiring hotels to provide them with panic buttons, and to post notices on guestroom doors stating that hotel workers may not be subjected to threatening behavior. It also has a “Humane Workload” provision that guarantees room attendants double pay on days when their workload exceeds proscribed limits.
The lawsuit alleges that Hyatt failed to post the required notices, and seeks injunctive relief requiring Hyatt to comply with the Initiative. The lawsuit further alleges that Hyatt failed to pay room attendants double when they cleaned more square footage than permitted by the Initiative. The lawsuit alleges that managers pressured housekeepers to work through their rest breaks to finish cleaning all of their assigned rooms as quickly as possible in violation of California law.
The lawsuit is part of a larger trend of local governments passing laws that are more protective of workers than states or the federal government. Los Angeles and several other cities have adopted Living Wage Ordinances, minimum wage ordinances, and sick pay ordinances that are far more protective of workers than state or federal legislation. Local ordinances to protect hotel workers from grueling workloads are just the latest example of efforts by cities to improve the working conditions of workers in specific industries. The trend can also be seen in fair scheduling ordinances, with Los Angeles recently passing the first such ordinance for retail workers. Cities such as Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle have also passed various fair scheduling laws of their own.
If you believe that you have not been paid proper wages, contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
The Guardian published an article last Friday about a pair of high-profile lawsuits alleging that Los Serranos Golf Club repeatedly failed to protect four young women from a sexual harasser who worked as the club’s executive chef for more than two decades. The women are represented by Lauren Teukolsky and Zoe Tucker of UNITE HERE Local 11.
The women all began working at Los Serranos in 2021 as line cooks and event servers. They were all between the ages of 17 and 20 at the time. They allege that the Executive Chef, who had worked there for decades, made inappropriate romantic and sexual overtures towards them, frequently commented on their physical appearance, and engaged in inappropriate touching. They allege that the chef would loudly compare their bodies and other physical attributes in crude terms with other male kitchen workers outside of their presence. They allege that after they complained, the chef was only demoted, not fired, and they were required to continue working alongside him.
According to the Guardian’s article, sexual harassment is pervasive in the restaurant service and hospitality industries in the US. The article cites a 2021 survey by One Fair Wage that found over 70% of female restaurant employees have been sexually harassed at least once while working in the industry.
The lawsuits are especially significant because they target JC Resorts, a luxury resort operator in Southern California that employs Los Serranos’ workers and has spent millions to oppose legislation that would improve protections against sexual harassment for women in the workplace. Ms. Teukolsky previously filed a sex harassment lawsuit against the Terranea, another luxury resort operated by JC Resorts. Ms. Teukolsky’s client, Sandra Pezqueda, was named a TIME “Person of the Year” after she sued JC Resorts based on sexual harassment she suffered while employed at the Terranea.
Ms. Teukolsky, has fought to protect employees rights for over 20 years and has represented women in high-profile sexual harassment cases in the past. Most recently, Ms. Teukolsky represented a woman who was sexually harassed while working at Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont. The lawsuit was covered by the Hollywood Reporter and was one of several lawsuits against the Chateau that prompted a celebrity boycott of the legendary hotel.
To read the Guardian’s article in its entirety, click here. If you believe you’ve been sexually harassed at the workplace and want to get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
UNITE HERE Local 11, a labor union representing hospitality workers across southern California, announced today that the Chateau Marmont, one of the most famed hotels in the United States, has agreed to formally recognize a labor union for the first time in its 93 year history. Local 11’s bargaining committee will soon start negotiations for the union’s first contract with the Chateau.
A joint memo from Local 11 and the Chateau states: “The Chateau Marmont and UNITE HERE Local 11 have reached an understanding that will allow the hotel to return to its normal level of operations. To reach this mutually beneficial position, the hotel and union agreed upon a fair process that determined whether a majority of workers in certain classifications have chosen the union as their representative. A neutral arbitrator validated the results and the hotel recognized the union. All prior disputes have been laid to rest.”
Teukolsky Law would like to congratulate the Chateau’s courageous workers and Local 11 on their incredible achievement.
Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter reported on August 23 that Paramount+’s miniseries about the making of The Godfather, The Offer, has canceled filming at the Chateau Marmont after learning about the Chateau’s labor dispute with Unite Here Local 11.
The production, which stars prominent actors including Miles Teller and Colin Hanks, was scheduled to film at the Chateau between August 25 and 27. The production is the second this year to pull out of planned business with the hotel. Former workers at the hotel launched the boycott in February along with the union, calling on the hotel to rehire workers in accordance with LA’s recall ordinance. Teukolsky Law has filed two lawsuits against Chateau Marmont this year on behalf of former employees alleging sexual harassment and racial discrimination.
Union co-president Kurt Petersen wrote in a statement, “We applaud Paramount Plus’s decision to honor the boycott of the Chateau Marmont. We thank all the Hollywood unions — SAG AFTRA, IATSE, Teamsters, WGA and DGA — for supporting these courageous workers who have spoken out for dignity and respect.”
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.