City Council seeks protection for hospitality workers

Independent Staff Report

WEST HOLLYWOOD — Dozens of laid off hospitality workers, joined by city officials and leaders of women’s organizations, held a press conference April 19 urging the City Council to pass a historic hotel worker protection policy.

Later that night, the City Council unanimously voted to direct staff to draft the hotel worker protection legislation. It is expected to come back before the council in June.

“I immigrated to this country leaving my kids behind in Guatemala in search of a better life to provide for them and have worked hard to build a life for us,” said Sandra Pellecer, who worked at the Standard as a cook for 16 years. “It is workers like me who dedicated their lives to building the hospitality industry in West Hollywood.”

The policy is aimed at ensuring workers in the hotel industry, many of whom have dedicated decades of service to the industry, have jobs to return to as the economy reopens. The policy also could contain measures to address other problems that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the risk of sexual assault or other threatening conduct for workers who work alone in guest rooms, inadequate compensation for heavy workloads and the lack of comprehensive, standardized training.

“As a member of the LGBTQ community, I know West Hollywood prides itself in being a city of inclusion and equality,” said Jesus Ortiz who worked at the Standard as a cook for four years. “I hope the council leads with these values today and stands with hospitality workers like myself who help this city thrive.”

Similar worker recall and retention ordinances have been approved in many cities across the region, including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena and Glendale.

“As a housekeeper having protections from the risk of sexual assault, like panic buttons, would make me feel safer since I often have to work alone in isolated areas of the hotel,” said Norma Hernandez who worked at the Mondrian for 13 years as a housekeeper.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, more than 90% of hotel workers were laid off. Most left without health care or job security, many after decades in the industry. Workers in the hotel industry are overwhelmingly immigrants and women of color, some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.

The hospitality workers had support from two members of the City Council who attended their press conference.

“Recovery must include everyone,” Mayor Lindsey Horvath said. “A just economy demands that we do better than simply going back to what existed before COVID-19.

City Councilwoman Sept Shyne agreed.

“The city of West Hollywood is actively working to close the gap of social, racial and workplace inequality,” Shyne said. “I am proud to work with Mayor Horvath to bring forward this item which will provide basic workforce protections for hotel workers who are often cleaning more rooms per day than the industry standard, putting their personal safety on the line when they enter rooms without any protective equipment such as panic buttons, allowing workers to return to and retain the jobs they love with dignity and requiring safe reporting and training.”