Industry NewsAn Imperfect Union: AHLA Fights Unite Here Homeless Policy That Would Endanger...

An Imperfect Union: AHLA Fights Unite Here Homeless Policy That Would Endanger Workers, Guests

Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, where so many of the movies we know and love were born.

The City of Angels is also home to a story so unbelievable no scriptwriter ever could have dreamed it up: A labor union that claims to represent hotel workers is fighting for a policy that would make its members’ working conditions less safe and ultimately eliminate their jobs.

Unite Here Local 11 represents hotel and hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona. For more than a year, the union has been fighting to pass a new ballot measure that would require all Los Angeles hotels to house homeless people next to paying guests.

It’s a perplexing position for Unite Here to take. This policy will actually eliminate L.A. hotels and hotel jobs. Safety concerns will undoubtedly prevent workers from taking hotel jobs and drive tourists to other cities.

The outcome is easy to predict because we’ve seen this movie before. Throughout the pandemic, the City of Los Angeles paid to house thousands of homeless people in hotels. Hotel employees were forced to deal firsthand with the drugs, violence, and property damage that followed homeless guests into hotels.

The Los Angeles Times reported the city paid the Mayfair Hotel $11.5 million for damage caused by homeless guests. The emails that went back and forth at the Mayfair tell the story.

“Participant in 1516 Threatened staff, Security, destroyed property. Screamed. Yelled cursed. Everything went wrong with her,” read one message highlighted by the Times.

“Around 10 am a male in 1526 assaulted another resident in Room 726,” one security guard wrote in another message. “The situation was quickly broken up and 1526 was escorted out by police.”

Homelessness is a serious problem that needs serious solutions. In 2020, nearly 25 percent of Los Angeles County’s adult homeless population had “severe mental illnesses,” while 27 percent had a “long-term substance use disorder,” according to Stanford University.

It makes no sense to force hotel workers with no social services or healthcare training to be responsible for a homeless population that needs professional counseling, case management, and medical help.

Unite Here is ignoring these issues and the complaints of its own membership. L.A. residents will vote March 5, 2024, on the ballot measure. Until then, hotel workers and the entire L.A. tourism industry remain under threat. AHLA is working hard to convince the union to drop the measure.

Unite Here’s reasons for trying to force hotels to house homeless guests have never been clear. On some days, union leaders say hotels need to be held responsible for the city’s generational problem with homelessness. On other days, the union says too many of its workers live too far from the hotel properties where they work.

The one constant is that Unite Here always fails to explain how putting homeless people in hotels next to paying guests benefits hotel workers and guests.

As we count down to March 2024, here is what we know:

  • Hoteliers have always cared deeply about their employees, and it’s disappointing to see how little concern Unite Here has for the safety of its members.
  • We’re alarmed at how casually Unite Here is pushing for a policy that will result in the destruction of its members’ jobs.
  • AHLA can’t ignore the obvious risks caused by housing homeless people in hotels, and we will continue to speak out on this matter.
  • Unite Here’s support for forcing all L.A. hotels to house homeless people next to paying guests is de facto support for drugs, violence, and property damage at all L.A. hotels.

It’s time for all hoteliers and hotel employees to look more closely at Unite Here’s motives and start asking tough questions about what its homeless-in-hotels policy would mean in Los Angeles—and across the country—if it passes next year.

AHLA is working tirelessly to do just that as we fight to protect our members, hotel workers, and Los Angeles tourism from Unite Here’s reckless and destructive actions.

Chip Rogers
Chip Rogers
Before being named AHLA CEO and President, William “Chip” Rogers served as president and CEO of AAHOA, the nation’s largest hotel owners association. During his tenure, AAHOA has established association records for membership, lifetime membership, event attendance, PAC fundraising, and revenue.