The reopening of Los Angeles area hotels during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and surge in confirmed cases has workers from UNITE HERE Local 11 concerned that their members are being put at risk.
On Wednesday, hotel workers across the county held lunchtime rallies asking that hotel operators pause the reopening. A recent survey found that 75% of workers are concerned they are being forced back to work too quickly.
Hotel workers across the county are asking they not be forced back to work if they feel unsafe; that they be permitted to keep their healthcare coverage through the pandemic,; that hotels comply with safety protocols and that hotels implement and maintain a system to track employees and guests who test positive for the virus.
“COVID cases are surging in California, and we are seeing more and more hotel workers test positive as they return to work,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Local 11 in a press release. “These hotels are simply not ready to reopen safely and must be paused immediately. The lives of predominantly black and brown workers are on the line.”
Since the County’s decision to reopen hotels to leisure travel, employees at several hotels have tested positive for COVID 19. The hotels have not informed guests of COVID-19 positive employees at the hotel, according to the union.
“I don’t want to bring COVID into my household and put my family at risk,” said Liliana Hernandez a housekeeper at the Fairmont Miramar.
On June 19, UNITE HERE Local 11 sent a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors asking for the immediate pause of hotel reopening. The locals concede that the pandemic has had a devastating effect both on the tourism industry and on their members’ livelihoods.
“Unemployment among hospitality workers exceeds 90%. Our members need to work,” the letter states. “However, the health of workers, their families, and guests must come before the hotel industry’s desire to reopen for tourism.”
Union leadership says the lack of proper protocols could potentially put guests and hotel workers at risk from contracting the virus. The union also notes that the county issued reopening guidelines on June 11 for a reopening that would take place June 12, leaving insufficient time for the appropriate safety measures to be implemented.
“I wouldn’t go to a hotel, right now,” Petersen told LAist. “I just wouldn’t.”