Employees at two hotels in Downtown Long Beach are celebrating $4 per hour raises and other benefits that union representatives hope to spread to thousands of other hospitality workers across the region in ongoing contract talks.

The Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Centric agreed to bring minimum pay to between $22 and $25 an hour for non-tipped positions, including housekeepers, cooks, front desk workers, and stewards, Unite Here Local 11 (which represents the workers) announced at a press conference Thursday.

The six-month contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, also gives employees free family health insurance, and guarantees that the hotels will have rooms cleaned daily and will be staffed at pre-pandemic levels.

“We know that hospitality workers are the backbone of the tourism industry,” Unite Here Local 11 Co-President Ada Briceño said, calling the contract a “momentous victory” for Hyatt employees.

Union workers raises his fist in the air during a chant as the Long Beach hotel workers celebrate wage gains at Hyatt Regency.
Hotel workers chant as they celebrate wage gains at Hyatt Regency in Long Beach, Thursday, April 13, 2023. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Several workers took the mic to say they’re proud of the work they do, but it’s been a challenge to care for their families and keep up with the rising cost of living.

“I know the struggle of not being paid a living wage,” said Ernest Lara, who has worked at the Hyatt Regency for five years. “I know what it’s like to go to bed hungry.”

Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson and Councilmembers Mary Zendejas, Suely Saro and Joni Ricks-Oddi were at the press conference to extend their support and congratulations to the workers.

Several people who spoke called the contract a first step and said the union’s fight isn’t over, and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Yvonne Wheeler said the better wages and health care benefits “will set a new industry standard.”

Union officials hope so. Negotiations are underway for about 20,000 workers at 100 hotels and food service establishments with contracts that expire at the end of June.

“This will set the tone” for those talks, Briceño said before the press conference.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council just opened discussions on a potential proposal to boost the wages of workers at larger hotels in that city to $25 an hour this year and continue annual increases until topping out at $30 an hour in 2028, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The broader drive for higher pay and more benefits may face pushback from the hotel and hospitality industry.

Many hotels already pay above the minimum wages some cities have set, but an increasing number of ballot measures and actions by city leaders to push pay and benefits higher pose a challenge to businesses that were closed for months during the pandemic, Hotel Association of Los Angeles spokesman Pete Hillan said in a phone interview.

“The reality is the more imposed financial mandates are put on one sector, it makes it more difficult for that sector to be competitive at a time when hotels have just begun to recover,” he said.