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Hotel workers demonstrate on Sunset Strip

December 4, 2009 |  6:45 pm

Hundreds of hotel workers rallied along Sunset Strip today and warned Los Angeles-area employers that they would not accept pay cuts, reduced benefits or other givebacks.

“We should be earning more, not less,” said Morena Hernandez, a maid at the Andaz,  the upscale hotel that was targeted in Friday’s protest. “We can’t afford a cut in benefits.”

The noisy but peaceful protest organized by Local 11 of Unite Here took place on the narrow sidewalk in front of the Andaz, formerly the West Hollywood Hyatt, which reopened last January after Hyatt refurbished the property. Inside the trendy hotel, a party celebrated women in film and a Christmas tree highlighted a holiday atmosphere.

Traffic slowed along the busy stretch of Sunset Boulevard as motorists honked horns in support and turned to watch the demonstrators. The union bused in supporters for the rush-hour protest.

The demonstrations were meant to send a message to management at 21 union hotels in the Los Angeles area where contracts covering 4,200 workers have expired this year, the union says. Local 11 says it is resisting demands for wage freezes, benefit cuts and other givebacks from management officials who cite the effects of the recession.

“We can’t allow Hyatt to take away everything we’ve won over the years,” said Javier Lopez, a banquet attendant at the Century Hyatt Century Plaza.

The 21 union hotels where contracts have expired include properties of several major chains, including Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, Renaissance and Holiday Inn. Workers at most Los Angeles-area hotels remain non-unionized.

But Michel Morauw, general manager of the Andaz, expressed fears that such actions could reduce business, costing the hotel and its workers in a difficult time.

“In this economic recession, the tourism industry, and hotels, in particular, have suffered enormously,” he said. “It’s a time for everybody to get together and work hard.”

--Patrick McDonnell