If you’re at the SOVAS That’s Voiceover Career Expo in Los Angeles at the moment, you should know this:
You are giving business to a boycotted hotel.
Don’t believe me? Go to fairhotel.org. It has a hotel finder and you’ll see that the Hilton Los Angeles Airport Hotel is on the list.
Who’s boycotting the hotel? Unite Here Local 11, the hotel workers union representing 32,000 members. Why is the hotel on the boycott list?
Because the Hilton group, as well as many other hotels in the area, is refusing to pay their workers a fair, living wage.
A HOTEL WITH A HISTORY
There have been labor disputes at the LAX Hilton as early as 2006. In 2008, an administrative judge ruled against hotel management in a series of 2006 disputes in which union officials say workers were shoved, verbally threatened and unfairly disciplined for work stoppages they say were within the workers’ rights.
In July of this year thousands of workers at hotels near the Los Angeles International Airport area walked off the job in a second wave of strikes. After contracts expired on June 30, Unite Here Local 11-represented workers at more than 60 hotels, authorized what could be the largest U.S. strike for the industry in recent memory.
Since the walkouts began on July 2, the union has been staging strikes on a revolving basis, a handful of hotels at a time. The union is also targeting the boycotted Beverly Hilton, which is the home of the 2023 Voice Arts Awards.
In a letter dated November 14th, the union wrote to SOVAS:
“We are respectfully asking that the SOVAS stand with these hotel workers by relocating, postponing or canceling this upcoming event at The Beverly Hilton.”
DO STRIKES WORK?
Unite Here Local 11 representing hotel workers in Southern California (who had been striking on and off for nearly five months), said in November it had reached a tentative contract agreement with Le Merigot Santa Monica.
The contract will – once it’s ratified – raise wages, strengthen pensions and increase investments in healthcare for about 100 employees at Le Merigot, confirmed union spokesperson Maria Hernandez. Le Merigot, a Marriott hotel, is the fifth property to reach a deal with the union.
Local 11 says that hotels are flush with pandemic relief money and profits and can well afford to give the workers raises. Maria Hernandez said that during the pandemic, Los Angeles area hotels received $15 billion in federal bailouts, with none of this money going to workers.
According to the union, tourism is up in 2023, and hotel profits in the Los Angeles area surpassed pre-pandemic levels. The hotels could afford to sign “if they wanted to,” said Hernandez. She attributes the hotel’s refusal to give workers a decent wage to “just greed.”
How did SOVAS respond to Unite Here Local 11’s request to relocate, postpone, or cancel the 2023 Voice Arts Awards?
Chairman and CEO Rudy Gaskins said in a letter to members:
“SOVAS remains committed to moving forward with the Voice Arts Awards Gala, acknowledging and respecting the rights of unions to strike and express their grievances as permitted by law in our free country. Canceling the event outright would severely negatively impact SOVAS and disappoint attendees traveling from around the world.”
Since my story “SOVAS Slaps Striking Workers in the Face” came out last Thursday, I have not seen any press release or public statement from CEO Rudy Gaskins expressing any sympathy for hotel workers, or expressing any regret for holding key events in boycotted locations. By the way, many of those underpaid hotel workers at these locations are women, people of color, and come from minorities.
SOLIDARITY AND SYMPATHY
I can understand that SOVAS may be bound by contracts that predated the strikes, and that it cannot cancel these events without serious financial consequences. But the least it could do, is to express solidarity with and sympathy for the members of Unite Here Local 11, and promise to never again use boycotted hotels for any SOVAS events.
Pressed on the issue of the Voice Arts Awards being held at the boycotted Beverly Hilton, SAG-AFTRA issued a statement on December 4th, saying:
“UNITE HERE stood with SAG-AFTRA during our fight for a fair contract and we urge you to stand by them by not attending this event if you do not have to.”
This prompted one of my readers to comment:
“I’m not a SAG/AFTRA member, but I’m glad I didn’t commit to SOVAS, but I can say that how SOVAS responds to this situation will influence my thinking about joining them or attending their events.”
Based on the feedback I have received after my last articles, this reader is by no means alone.
Where do you stand?
UNITE HERE LOCAL 11 has reached a tentative agreement with the Beverly Hilton!
According to the Hollywood Reporter the union stated that the agreement provides “unprecedented wage increases,” “affordable” healthcare, language that will allow the formerly incarcerated to be hired on union jobs, new protections for immigrant workers and regulations to ensure “humane” workloads.”
The Beverly Hilton is the home of the 2023 Voice Arts Awards, and I am thrilled for SOVAS, and for all the nominees and voice actors who had been looking forward to this event. I am even more thrilled for the hotel workers. This has always been about them, and everybody deserves to at least make a living wage.
I congratulate union Unite Here Local 11 on reaching this deal, and I hope all boycotted hotels will take notice and follow suit. Let me add that SOVAS has done nothing to support hotel workers in their fight, even though Local 11 members were on the picket lines, supporting the WGA and SAG-AFTRA.
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