Hotel Bel-Air Workers To Strike Over Mass Layoff

Hotel Bel-Air workers strikeAmong the world's best hotels, the "warm staff" has set the Bel-Air apart, according to Travel and Leisure magazine.

As the famed Los Angeles institution readies to reopen next week after a two-year renovation, it will be doing so largely without the asset of that personnel that has helped the hotel appear on T&L's annual list of best hotels since 2007.

When the landmark hotel, famous for its showcase fountains and swans, closed in 2009, a staff of 275 was sidelined. The group included dishwashers and chambermaids, and they were all unionized. And now, as the Los Angeles Times reports, only a dozen of the union workers will be brought back on staff for the reopening at the revamped hotel.

"In essence, the dedicated employees who took the Hotel Bel-Air from a four-star to five-star resort have been thrown out like the old furniture," Thomas Walsh, president of the hospitality workers union, Unite Here Local 11, told the Times.

The workers are responding with a coordinated protest scheduled for Friday in the upscale Angelino neighborhood. They plan on venting their anger over the manner in which they were let go. They say the construction was all a sideshow to purge the unionized staff.

Two thousand postcards have already been sent to neighbors warning of a disturbance. The protesters are also calling on actors and directors to join in on the boycott. The protest plans have yet to be finalized, but details will be announced during a press conference before it begins.

The hotel has responded by pointing out that severance packages were offered back in 2009, which were rejected by the staffers. The application process is also being reopened to all the workers, the hotel says. The Bel-Air management is also making clear that new attempts at unionization will be recognized. Along with the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hotel Bel-Air is operated by Dorchester Collection, a group which is affiliated with the government of Brunei.

The 91-room Hotel Bel-Air has long been a symbol of high living in Los Angeles. The rooms, all of which have been upgraded and retrofitted for iPads and the like during the renovation, start at $565 a night. And so a nasty public protest would be of the exact sort that would be unwelcome by the hotel. This is the site, as USA Today points out, after all, where Nancy Reagan took private meals and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman met to privately settle their 2001 divorce.

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