The Workplace Report

The Chickens Come Home To Roost: L.A.’s Unionized Hotel Workers Mad Non-Union Workers Now Making More

Unionized hotel workers in Los Angeles are making less than their non-union counterparts—thanks in large measure to their own union—and they’re not happy about it.

Wage protestors

In 2014, the Los Angeles City Council voted to mandate that large hotels increase their minimum wage to $15.37 per hour.

It was, according to the L.A. Times, “a huge victory to a coalition that included organized labor, more than a dozen neighborhood councils and the ACLU of Southern California.”


One of the criticisms of the 2014 measure was that it exempted unionized hotels from paying the higher wage.

Hotels that have a unionized workforce can be exempted from paying the $15.37 hourly wage, if workers agree in their contract to relinquish that opportunity.

That exemption, it turns out, has turned out to be a double-edged sword.

For UNITE-HERE, the union that helped push the higher wage for every hotel except unionized hotels, perhaps it was hoping it would get new members.


What it has succeeded in getting, however, is rising anger among some of its union members who, thanks to their union are now making less than their non-union counterparts elesewhere, the Times reported on Saturday.

LA Times

[Bill] Martinez, a 53-year-old bellhop, has hauled tourists’ luggage across the flagstone plaza of the Sheraton Universal in Studio City for two decades. He said he was excited after the council’s vote to raise the minimum hourly wage at large hotels to $15.37, which he expected to boost his paycheck by 71%.

He soon found out he wouldn’t be getting a raise after all. Under an obscure provision of the city’s wage hike, unionized hotels were granted an exemption allowing them to pay their employees less. The result is that Martinez, who pays $56.50 every month for membership in the hotel workers union Unite Here, now makes less than those doing the same job in non-union workplaces.

“That’s what really makes me mad,” Martinez said. “I just wanted to be treated equal. Don’t exempt us, because we’re the ones paying union dues.”

And, it gets worse. It’s not just in L.A., San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Santa Monica have all adopted union waivers in their most recent minimum wage laws.


Why would a union advocate for a law that allows for its own members to make less than the increased minimum wage?

It’s really simple. The union sees it as a means of unionizing more workers.

“I wouldn’t even say it’s an incentive,” Unite Here Local 11 President Tom Walsh said of the effect of the exemptions on hotel owners. “It just perhaps will cause them to be less resistant to unionization.”

That the union members paying, in UNTIE-HERE’s case, $56.50 every month in union dues to a union that has helped get non-union workers more money than its dues-paying members is worse than ironic…It is reprehensible.

No wonder union members are angry.

Read the rest of the L.A. Times expose here.

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