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Workers stage one-day strike at upscale hotel near Staples Center

January 13, 2011 | 12:05 pm

Employees at an upscale boutique hotel in downtown Los Angeles staged a one-day strike Thursday to protest alleged increased workloads that they said resulted in unfair disciplinary actions.

Management for the Luxe City Center Hotel at 1020 S. Figueroa St., across from the Grammy Museum, declined to comment.

The hotel, which has about 200 rooms, was a Holiday Inn before it was remodeled and re-branded in December. Standard online prices for a room, in a check of rates Thursday, ranged from $179 to $234, before taxes.

Hotel workers claim the remodel resulted in more work: Tubs were replaced by showers with glass doors that required daily cleaning, and each room had more linens. Besides that, the business has boomed in the downtown area near Staples Center.

Instead of adding sufficient workers or hours, management simply demanded more work and gave employees warnings when they fell short of quotas, said housekeeper Vanessa Aveldano, 26, who has worked at the hotel for five years.

Several employees have two warnings and can be fired when they get three, she said.

“They’ve pushed a lot of extra work on us,” said the mother of two who makes $13.72 an hour and lives south of downtown L.A. “It’s too much. We can’t finish.”

About half the housekeeping staff works enough hours to earn health benefits, she said. And about five housekeepers are on medical leave.

The Luxe, like other hotels, is resisting increasing staffing as the economy recovers, said Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 11, which staged a daylong demonstration with about 70 participants on the sidewalk outside the hotel.

“The economy is in full swing," she said, "but the workers don’t feel that.”

The Luxe action is part of a larger organizing campaign. About 4,000 workers at 20 unionized hotels are currently working without a contract, Shelton said. About 70% of hotels in the upscale downtown Los Angeles corridor are unionized, she added.


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-- Howard Blume