Noting that many family members of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are employees in the Los Angeles hotel industry, the district Board of Education has called for restricting district events at hotels which are the focus of a labor dispute, including two near Los Angeles International Airport.
The school district Board of Education introduced a resolution Tuesday, February 12th, calling for district staff to avoid booking events at two LAX-area hotels, the Hilton Los Angeles Airport and the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles Airport, as well as the Wilshire Plaza Hotel in Koreatown.
The Hilton LAX and Wilshire Plaza are currently under boycott by the union UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Four Points by Sheraton LAX is anticipated to be boycotted by the union.
The union has pushed for the boycotts in response to an ongoing labor dispute between the airport-area hotels and their service workers, particularly regarding a “living wage.”
The Los Angeles City Council has approved an ordinance requiring the LAX-area hotels to pay their service workers a living wage, including $9.39 per hour with health benefits or $10.64 without. After an appeals court ruled last year that the ordinance was sufficiently different from a repealed law, the hotels recently appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.
Referring to the ongoing labor dispute, the Board of Education said that many family members of district students who are employed by the hotels rely on fair working conditions and adequate healthcare.
“LAUSD should do our part in supporting fair negotiations and decent wages for hotel workers, the majority of whom send their children to our schools,” Board of Education president Monica Garcia said.
When introducing the resolution, the school board said that fair negotiations between the hotel workers and owners are “critical” to maintaining steady family income and continued academic success for students whose families work in Los Angeles hotels. Hotel workers in the city earn significantly less than workers in other major cities, according to the board resolution.
“The hotel workers resolution supports student achievement by recognizing that food on the table and financial stability at home are important to children’s academic success,” Garcia said.
In response to the resolution, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Gary Toebben said the L.A. Unified Board of Education should focus solely on improving public schools, not on issues outside the district’s jurisdiction.
“With so many challenges facing LAUSD students, it is an inappropriate distraction for the school board to focus on a labor issue outside the school board’s domain, especially since the board has its own labor issues to preside over,” Toebben said in a statement. “LAUSD should spend its precious resources on programs and actions that will have the greatest impact on students.
“All other efforts detract from the mission of the district to provide quality education.”
The potential avoidance of school district events at the three hotels could lead to a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in business. The district spent approximately $393,000 at the three hotels last year and has spent about $185,000 there so far this year, said Vy Nguyen, spokeswoman for Garcia.
Other organizations, such as the California Teachers Association, have previously cancelled events at the LAX Hilton in response to the labor dispute.
Ruben Gonzalez, a spokesman for the hotels, said the latest boycott call by the school board is “just another antic” in the local union’s effort to organize the hotel workers.
“Once again, they’re using their political allies to attempt to manufacture public pressure,” Gonzalez said.
A boycott of the hotels will only end up hurting the workers, who will lose money with fewer events scheduled there, Gonzalez said.
Toebben said the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is encouraging all parties involved in the labor dispute to continue working on an agreement that balances the interests of both business and labor.
Board of Education members said they are also encouraging all parties to keep negotiating in “good faith” until a fair contract is reached.