Workers at the famed Chateau Marmont hotel, many of whom who were laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic and lost their healthcare coverage, have voted to unionize.
In a majority vote gathered last week, the hotel’s housekeepers, bellhops, maintenance employees and other service workers voted to join Unite Here Local 11. After a neutral arbitrator validated the results, the hotel acknowledged the vote and is supporting the move, union officials said.
An estimated 200 employees at Chateau Marmont were laid off in March 2020 when tourism took a nose dive in the early days of the pandemic. The situation worsened when their healthcare coverage ended soon afterward.
Kurt Petersen, Unite Here Local 11’s co-president, said the Hollywood hotel’s current staffing remains much lower, although he didn’t reveal what that number is.
Martha Moran had been a housekeeper at Chateau Marmont for 33 years before her layoff in early 2020. She hopes to return soon — with higher wages and better healthcare benefits.
“I’m really excited to see this agreement,” the 56-year-old Glendora resident said. “I was making $18 an hour before, but I hope to get more money.”
Displaced employees at Chateau Marmont banded together soon after their layoffs to help pass a “right-of-recall” ordinance in Los Angeles. The law requires employers to make a written offer of employment to laid-off workers for any available position for which they qualify after the effective date of the ordinance.
Moran hopes that will include her.
Similar right-of-recall laws have since been passed in Long Beach, Pasadena, Glendale, Santa Monica, Los Angeles County and California as a whole.
Petersen called the union vote a victory for both current and displaced workers.
“Many of these employees lost their jobs during the pandemic, and they had no expectation of returning to work,” he said. “But now they will not only return to work but return to work with a union.”
The return may be slow, however, as Chateau Marmont is still dealing with the health crisis and a boycott by some amid allegations of sexual harassment, racial discrimination and financial mismanagement at the hotel.
In September 2020, dozens of Chateau Marmont employees spoke to The Hollywood Reporter of a toxic workplace, with some of the allegations directed at owner André Balazs. He eventually was forced to step down as CEO of the Standard Hotel Group, which he founded in 1998.
Displaced employees at Chateau Marmont banded together soon after their layoffs to help pass a “right-of-recall” ordinance in Los Angeles. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)Walter Almendarez, a bellman at the hotel for 23 years, said having a union, with higher wages and better benefits, will make a big difference.
“My daughter was my biggest inspiration to organize the union,” he said. “When I started, my daughter was just 6 months old, now she is almost 3 years old. Having a union means I will be able to provide a better future for her and make her proud.”
Several other unions supported the hotel workers’ efforts to unionize, including SAG AFTRA, IATSE, DGA, WGA and IBT 399, as well as elected and religious leaders.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG AFTRA’s national executive director, offered his congratulations when the votes were finalized, and Los Angeles Councilwoman Nithya Raman joined in.
“Workers at this iconic hotel have captured the city’s — and Hollywood’s — attention through their bold and diligent organizing over many months,” Raman said in a statement. “With this newly formed union come the protections and economic security that all workers deserve.”