LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said Monday his office is investigating whether local hotels targeted by an ongoing workers strike improperly hired homeless migrants to replace picketing employees, possibly in violation of wage and child labor laws.
“We take these egregious allegations with the utmost seriousness,” Gascón said in a statement released by the Unite Here Local 11 union, which represents the striking hotel workers. “The mistreatment of vulnerable workers and their exploitation will not be tolerated. We will conduct an exhaustive investigation, working closely with Unite Here Local 11 and other stakeholders to ensure strict compliance with labor laws and protect the rights and dignity of all workers.”
Union officials allege that hotels in Santa Monica and near Los Angeles International Airport have been hiring migrant workers, some of whom are homeless and staying at the Union Rescue Mission on downtown’s Skid Row. The union contends there have been instances of a child missing school to work at a hotel, and migrant workers receiving paychecks without any documentation about the amount of time they worked.
Gascón attended a news conference with union officials Monday in Santa Monica to discuss the investigation. Also attending was state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, who said in a statement “we will continue to stand with these workers in Santa Monica and anywhere else they may face these awful conditions.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that it spoke with 11 people living at the Union Rescue Mission who said they had been hired by hotels targeted by the union strike. Some told The Times they endured heavy cleaning loads and worked long hours, with no prior indication about how much they would be paid. One worker said he was forced to work without breaks, and another said he skipped two days of classes at high school to work at an LAX-area hotel.
Hotel representatives could not be reached for comment on the allegations.
Hotel workers represented by the union have been on strike since early July, taking part in waves of picketing in various parts of the Southland. The workers represented by the union include cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front desk agents. They are pushing for higher pay, improved health care and benefits.
Representatives for the Coordinated Bargaining Group representing local hotels have accused the union of being inflexible in its demands.