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Hotel workers to protest unfair treatment with rally on Sunset Boulevard [Updated]

July 22, 2010 |  3:09 pm

Hundreds of hotel workers in Los Angeles said they were preparing to shut down part of the Sunset Strip early Thursday evening in an act of civil disobedience to protest unfair treatment of employees in the tourism and hospitality industry.

The workers, who include bellhops, housekeepers and bartenders, say they have endured staff cuts, reduced hours and excessive injury rates at local hotels, such as the Hyatt chain.

The planned Los Angeles protest is part of a 15-city day of action, and workers here plan to rally for at least an hour beginning at 5 p.m. outside the Andaz West Hollywood, a 257-room Hyatt brand hotel in the 8400 block of West Sunset Boulevard.

[Updated at 5:47 p.m.: The protest was underway and no arrests had been made, the Sheriff's Department said.]

Organizers said their disapproval also was aimed at the Pritzker family, which owns the Hyatt hotel chain.

"We can't go to war with every hotel; we have to pick hotels where the conditions are the worst," said Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 11, Southern California's hospitality workers' union.

Shelton said the Hyatt was trying to force workers into signing "recession contracts," which would lock them in for five or six years and prevent them from negotiating better deals as the economy rebounds.

"We have to show the Hyatt that we are serious, that workers across the country are united and refusing to let the Hyatt take unfair advantage of the tough economic times," Shelton said. "We have to send the Pritzker family a message that working people deserve a fair share in the recovery."

In a statement issued by the Hyatt Hotels Corp., company officials said they had been participating in union contract negotiations "in good faith" for nearly a year in several markets across the country.

"During this time, we have been honoring the contracts currently in place," the statement said. "In contrast to the respect we are showing for the negotiation process, union leadership has chosen to stage demonstrations rather than come to the bargaining table to find solutions to issues important to our associates and our business."

The statement also said Unite Here Local 11 had refused to bargain by declining to meet with representatives of the Andaz West Hollywood.

Thursday night's protest was expected to shut part of the Sunset Strip, disrupting commuter traffic and public transportation.

Gayle Anderson, a spokeswoman for Metro, said Metro Bus Line 2, Route 302, would be detoured Thursday evening on Sunset Boulevard between La Cienega Boulevard and Sweetzer Avenue. The detour was expected to last from 4:30 to 9 p.m. or until barricades were removed, Anderson said. Metro would be posting detour signs in the affected areas.

-- Ann M. Simmons