Hilton Los Angeles Airport hotel service workers who say they are fighting for their right to organize without interference have called for a boycott of the hotel.

A group of about 50 hotel workers and members of the Unite Here Local 11 union stood outside the Hilton LAX, near Los Angeles International Airport at 5711 Century Blvd., Westchester, Thursday, August 31st, calling on the public to boycott all services that the hotel provides.

The workers said the boycott is in response to Hilton LAX management allegedly harassing and intimidating hotel employees who support a union and try to organize.

The Hilton Los Angeles Airport, ranked as the third-largest hotel in Southern California, with more than 1,200 rooms, is currently not unionized and many workers at the boycott rally said they “want a union.”

The boycott announcement came more than six months after hotel workers in the Century Corridor area raised concerns about working conditions, such as what they described as low wages, lack of affordable health care, heavy workload and job-related injuries.

Unite Here Local 11 members said hotel workers in the Century Corridor earn 20 percent less than workers at downtown Los Angeles hotels and 30 percent less than hotels in Beverly Hills.

“We’re here organizing to better our working conditions,” Ana Mendez, a five-year banquet service worker at the LAX Hilton, said at the boycott rally.

Some workers say that they can’t afford to pay their health insurance costs and others claim that they have received job-related injuries from their heavy workload.

Mendez alleges that, since she has supported a union, her working shifts at the hotel have been cut from about 18 to 20 hours per week down to between zero and eight hours a week.

Unite Here Local 11 members said they filed an unfair labor practice allegation Friday, August 25th, against the LAX Hilton for alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act, such as interrogation of employees about their union activities.

Hilton Los Angeles Airport spokeswoman Stephanie Martin said the claims of the harassment of workers are “absolutely fraudulent” and the union’s call for a boycott of the hotel will end up affecting the workers.

Fewer bookings at the hotel as a result of the boycott means fewer chances for employees to make tips, she said.

“By staging a boycott, they’re attempting to take money out of the pockets of those they say they protect,” Martin said.

Less than ten percent of the hotel’s 700 employees are in support of a union but hotel officials would support a secret ballot vote for a union by workers, she said.

Mendez said the workers know that a boycott of the hotel is a sacrifice for them but there is “nothing left to do” in their effort to unionize.

Patricia Simmons, a waitress who has worked at the LAX Hilton for 19 years, agreed, adding that she can’t afford to pay her rent with her current salary.

“We know that it’s a big sacrifice, but it’s one that we must take in order to improve our lives in the long run,” Simmons said. “We want to show that we have a right to organize.”

In response to the boycott, the California Teachers Association and the Los Angeles Episcopal Jubilee Ministries announced that they have canceled events at the LAX Hilton until the situation is settled.

California Teachers Association (CTA) member Bonnie Shatun said the association has held its quarterly meetings at the LAX Hilton but has decided to reschedule at a different hotel.

“The CTA supports hotel workers and their efforts to organize,” Shatun said. “The CTA will be moving up to another hotel but is prepared to return to the Hilton LAX when the labor dispute is resolved.”

Michael Collins, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said boycotts can have a significant effect on business for hotels.

Organizations that have already scheduled events at the hotel may decide to “take the event elsewhere,” and others may choose to not come to the hotel in the first place, he said.

But Martin asserted that the boycott “has not impacted our business at all,” adding that the hotel has been able to replace all bookings that were canceled.

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