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Southern California hotel workers authorize a strike that could begin July 4th weekend if a deal isn’t reached on pay and benefits

<i>Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images</i><br/>Marissa Langley attends to hotel workers coming for a strike authorization vote at the Unite Here 11 office in Los Angeles on June 8.
Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
Marissa Langley attends to hotel workers coming for a strike authorization vote at the Unite Here 11 office in Los Angeles on June 8.

By Alexandra Coenjaerts, CNN

(CNN) — The largest hospitality union in Southern California has approved a strike for more than 15,000 workers that could begin in early July if an agreement isn’t reached on increased pay and other benefits.

Unite Here Local 11 – the union representing room attendants, cooks, dishwashers and front desk agents among other workers – voted Friday on authorizing the strike with a 96% approval. The group claimed the strike would mark “the largest hotel worker strike in modern US industry.”

The union is asking for a $5-dollar hourly wage increase, affordable family healthcare, a pension that will enable workers to retire with security, and a safe, humane workload, according to a union news release.

“Hotel workers who work in the booming Los Angeles’ tourism industry must be able to live in Los Angeles” said Kurt Petersen, the union’s co-president. “The industry shamelessly exploited the pandemic and is now reaping greater profits than ever before. Yet workers cannot afford to pay the rent.”

The union says that while negotiations began April 20, the hotel industry has not returned any wage proposals.

CNN has reached out to Hyatt, Hilton, Highgate, Accor, IHG, Marriott and the Hotel Association of Los Angeles.

The union did not specify exact dates when the strike might begin, only noting it could start as early as the July 4 weekend – a prime summer holiday weekend for tourists, according to Maria Hernandez, the head of communications for Unite Here Local 11.

The Hotel Association of Los Angeles, which represents the greater Los Angeles hotel industry, said there are other options other than striking that could solve the issues.

“We are disappointed that Unite Here is planning to take a strike when our understanding is the negotiations have not really run their course yet,” HALA spokesperson Pete Hillan said.

The union’s vote to authorize the strike comes amid similar worker advocacy efforts in recent months across the country.

Next week, a union representing hundreds of thousands UPS workers could vote to authorize a strike if a deal isn’t reached by August 1 on better pay, benefits and better working conditions. A strike of that magnitude – about 340,000 workers – would be felt by nearly every household in the country.

Last week, the Directors Guild of America reached a “historic” tentative deal for wages, work hours, residuals and even artificial intelligence as the writers’ strike continued. More than 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike last month for the first time since 2007.

Last month, about 155 resident physicians went on strike at a New York hospital and then returned to work after reaching a deal with their employer. Their union had said the residents were not receiving the same pay and benefits as their nonunion counterparts working at other hospitals.

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CNN’s Aya Elamroussi, Ramishah Maruf, Chris Isidore and Nicki Brown contributed to this report.

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