Wilshire Plaza Hotel workers

By Sarah Knopp and Katie Miller

LOS ANGELES--Some 80 Wilshire Plaza Hotel workers, who have been working without a union contract since December 2006, won a two-day strike this month over unfair labor practices. Every member of the workers' union, UNITE HERE Local 11, participated in the action, which began January 10.

The strike came in the aftermath of a three-week long hearing at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB's general counsel has alleged 45 violations against the Wilshire Plaza, including the failure to make payments to the health and welfare funds, resulting in the loss of health coverage for their employees.

Soon after the hearing, two critical witnesses, who were subpoenaed by the federal government to testify, experienced retaliation. Lester Salazar, a room service waiter, saw his hours drop from 33 hours per week before the hearing, to only 12 hours a week.

Noelia López, who has worked at Wilshire Plaza for 28 years, was discriminated against when the hotel added to her job duties soon after the hearing. So employees decided to teach Wilshire Plaza a lesson by walking out.

After two days, the employer conceded to reinstate Salazar to his full hours, with back pay, and to drop the additional duties for López. Management also agreed to restore laundry services for kitchen employees and provide better food to workers.

Claiming victory, the workers returned to work but pledged to continue the boycott against Wilshire Plaza until they win a just contract.

While this strike was technically on issues of violations of labor law, workers' anger is at a boiling point on other issues as well.

Lineth, a long-time employee at the hotel, said, "My own wages have been reduced from $13.00 per hour to $8.05 per hour in the last year and many of my co-workers have seen their paychecks returned because there is apparently no money in the hotel owners' bank accounts to pay for workers' salaries."

Wilshire Plaza Hotel has gotten a taste of what's to come if they continue to treat workers badly. And the workers have gained a sense of their power.