Thousands of unionized hotel workers in Southern California walked off the job Sunday after negotiations over higher pay and benefits failed, representatives said.

Strikers say they are not coming to work on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, which is the Fourth of July, one of the busiest holidays of the year for the hospitality industry.

“Our members were devastated first by the pandemic, and now by the greed of their bosses,” says Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “The industry got bailouts while we got cuts. Now, the hotel negotiators decided to take a four-day holiday instead of negotiating. Shameful.”

Up to 15,000 employees in the Unite Here Local 11 union were taking participating in the strike, which affects 65 major hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties, including Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Marriott, and Four Seasons.

Hundreds of hotel workers were seen striking outside the Intercontinental Hotel and the JW Marriott Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles as early as 6:30 a.m. Employees are looking for better wages, health insurance and pensions, and the largest multi-hotel walkout in local history comes during the one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year. 

“We’re basically asking for necessities because the cost of living here in Los Angeles has skyrocketed in the last years and it’s just getting too expensive to live here,” said Emely Lopez, a housekeeper at the Intercontinental Hotel. “More of us are moving out of the city and going farther and farther out, like Palmdale and Riverside. It’s just getting too expensive to come to work here too.”

Lopez also noted that while her son is on Medi-Cal, she can’t afford it for herself with her current wages when she also has to pay rent, make car payments and put gas in her car.

“I make ‘too much’ per se, according to the state of California, so I can’t qualify for that,” she said. “But, either I pay my insurance or I pay my rent, so I’ll be without the coverage [because] I’d rather have my rent secured for the end of the month.”

The Hotel Association of Los Angeles, which represents most of the hotels in the Los Angeles area, released a statement saying that they have been “actively engaged in good faith collective bargaining” with the workers union ahead of the contract expiration at the end of the month.

They also said that they will continue to provide excellent service in welcoming guests to the Los Angeles area during the strike.

The Coordinated Bargaining Group of 44 Los Angeles and Orange County Hotels told KTLA 5’s Annie Rose Ramos that:

“We are aware that some of the associates at several downtown and Westside hotels are engaging in a work stoppage. This activity was expected. We are fully prepared to continue to operate these hotels and to take care of our guests as long as this disruption lasts.”

This walkout comes after hotel employees with Westin Bonaventure Hotel were able to strike a deal with negotiators on Thursday.