Most hotels in the city of Los Angeles will be required to limit the daily workload of housekeepers, pay overtime under certain circumstances, provide “panic buttons” to protect their employees from sexual harassment, and end policies that automatically waive of daily cleaning, under a measure approved Tuesday by the Los Angeles City Council.
Unite Here Local 11, a union representing hotel workers in Southern California, has more than 110,000 signatures on a petition to put the measure in the city on Nov. 8. Instead, the council voted 10 to 3 to bypass the voting process and pass the measure outright. A second, largely procedural vote is scheduled for June 28. The measure will take effect approximately 30 days later.
The move comes as Los Angeles tourism leaders hope to see a recovery in the region’s tourism industry, which has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Los Angeles County received 50 million international and domestic visitors, spending $22 billion, according to LA tourism officials. But in 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the number of visitors dropped to 27.7 million, while tourism spending fell to $10 billion. Tourism experts estimate that the province received about 40 million visitors in 2021.
In addition to the measure for hotel workers, the council also approved an increase in the minimum wage for some health workers to $25 an hour. A group of unions had also gathered enough signatures to put the measure to the vote this fall.
The move by hotel housekeepers was opposed by business and hospitality groups, who told the municipality on Tuesday that the law would lead to higher labor costs, higher room rates and a decrease in the number of tourists turned off by higher rates.
Heather Rozman, Executive Director of Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, who opposed the measure, also suggested that by reintroducing daily room cleaning, the measure would force hotels to use more water at a time of “unprecedented drought.” At the start of the pandemic, many hotels eliminated daily room cleaning as the move reduced the risk of COVID-19 spreading between hotel staff and guests.
“Mandatory daily room cleaning would forever increase the use of water, as well as electricity and gas,” she said.
Unite Here Local 11 had also supported similar ballots passed in Long Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Glendale, but were rejected by voters in Rancho Palos Verdes.
The council heard testimonies from several housekeepers who filled the council chambers, spoke out in favor of the measure and chanted “Si, se puede(Yes, we can) during the meeting.
The measure was defended by councilor Kevin de Leon, who described hotel workers as “the backbone of our economy.”
“They shouldn’t have to wait until November” for the measure to be passed, he said. “This is a matter of justice.”
Councilors who opposed the measure said it was premature to pass it without an economic analysis of its effects.
“This is not how this body makes policy,” Councilor Paul Krekorian said.
The measure aims to reduce the workload for hotel housekeepers, who earn hourly wages of less than $18 in Los Angeles and have one of the highest injury rates among service workers.
According to union leaders, the workload of housekeepers has increased as most hotels have run out of staff since the height of the pandemic, and the end of daily room cleaning means that understaffed housekeepers will have to spend several days in waste, dirt. clean up and used towels. Unite Here leaders say the elimination of daily housekeeping will allow hotels to hire fewer housekeepers and demand more from the workers that remain.
In January, The Times followed a day in the life of a hotel keeper, who kept a diary detailing the grueling working conditions during the pandemic.
Under the new measure, hotels will not be allowed to automatically waive daily cleaning, but hotel guests can request to waive daily cleaning.
Also, hotels with at least 45 rooms will be required to limit the number of rooms — based on total square footage — that a housekeeper must clean in an eight-hour workday. The square footage limits are determined by, among other things, the size of the hotel, the types of rooms, and whether the housekeeper has to clean rooms on different floors.
The measure also prohibits hotels from requiring housekeepers to work more than 10 hours on a single shift without their written consent. In addition, a previous minimum wage regulation that applied to hotels with 150 rooms or more will be extended to hotels with 60 rooms or more. The minimum wage is now $17.64 an hour.
Hotels must also provide housekeepers with panic buttons, devices they can use to call for help in the event of sexual harassment or assault.
Under pressure from unions and workers, the country’s largest hotels and the country’s hotel trade group voluntarily enacted a policy in 2018 to provide workers with panic buttons to address such security concerns.
The Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., based in the San Fernando Valley, has released a statement opposing the housekeeping measure, saying operating a hotel would become more expensive.
“The reality here is that the Hotel Workers Initiative will cripple hotels that have struggled to stay open during the pandemic,” Stuart Waldman, the group’s president, said in a statement. “The initiative will force hotels to hire more staff and reduce hours for current employees. Labor is expensive. Some hotels cannot afford to implement the initiative.”