Union Town

Uniting with UNITE HERE

The choice for the Writers Guild Awards venue was easy.

Photo by Jack E. Herman

From a union perspective, not every hotel was ready for its awards season closeup. 

As the WGAW considered venues in which to host the 2024 Writers Guild Awards, the Guild factored in the usual event-related variables—cost, convenience, amenities, and availability. It also—as always—weighed in another critical factor: solidarity. 

WGAW members join UNITE HERE Local 11 outside the E-Central Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Chandra Thomas

In their quest for better pay, improved healthcare, and humane workloads, workers with UNITE HERE Local 11 have been battling with multiple hotels throughout the southland including several that have traditionally been used for events during awards season. When a venue decision needed to be made last fall, only one suitable hotel had settled a contract with UNITE HERE and was available on the show date, Sunday, April 14th. To ensure its L.A.-based show avoided any hotel on Local 11’s boycott list, the WGAW chose to host the 2024 ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium. 

As the WGAW and other entertainment unions were locking in their venues for upcoming events, the hotels may have realized the importance of making a deal rather than risk seeing picket lines where red carpets should be. The Beverly Hilton reached an agreement with Local 11 on December 8, followed in rapid succession by agreements with 24 more hotels, including the InterContinental DTLA, the W Hotel Westwood, SLS Beverly Hills, and the Ritz Carlton L.A. Live. Local 11 represents housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and front desk workers employed at these hotels. During the hot union summer of 2023, UNITE HERE workers frequently joined WGA and SAG-AFTRA picket lines, including a July 21 rally during which hundreds of workers marched from the W Hotel to a rally at Netflix. Guild leaders and WGAW members also turned out at Local 11 protests. 

“I remember walking over from the Fox Studios picket line to the Fairmont Century Plaza and joining their picket line,” said former WGAW President Patric M. Verrone, who chairs the Guild’s Awards Committee. “The solidarity that the WGA experienced during the strike was invigorating, and it made us so much more aware of our sibling unions and the rest of the labor movement in general.” 

The solidarity that the WGA experienced during the strike was invigorating, and it made us so much more aware of our sibling unions and the rest of the labor movement in general.

- Patric M. Verrone

UNITE HERE leaders acknowledge that, even prior to the venue selection for the upcoming Writers Guild Awards, the WGA had a history of standing in unity with UNITE HERE. 

“The WGA was very supportive of our campaign to get a contract with the Chateau Marmont,” noted Sam Forman, customer organizer for UNITE HERE. “Many WGA members walked picket lines, in some cases hosted pickets, and were very helpful alerting other members and holding the line. During the Oscars in 2022, there was a big after-party where a ton of WGA members were getting the word out that this is a place that’s being boycotted, and they should not cross the picket line.”

In his early contacts with event planners throughout the entertainment industry, Forman highlighted certain venues that had not yet reached agreements with the union and were therefore recommended for boycotting on UNITE HERE’s Fair Hotel list. Having reached a deal with Local 11, the Beverly Hilton Hotel is now scheduled to host at least nine industry-related events in the current awards season. 

As part of its campaign, Local 11 has explicitly threatened to stage picket lines at entertainment events that were being held at disputed hotels, and the industry scheduled their events accordingly. Over the past year, more than 100 associations have switched venues to honor picket lines, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) Governors Awards and SAG-AFTRA’s holiday party and fundraiser. In December, before Local 11 had a deal in place, the Critics Choice Association held its Critics Choice Awards at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica instead of at the Fairmont Century Plaza. In a statement, Local 11 Co-President Kurt Petersen reminded anyone planning an event that “unsettled labor disputes cause chaos.”

By sharp contrast, a hotel with a union contract in place is a great venue in which to celebrate.

“There are a lot of places that have agreements now that could more than adequately host any of these awards shows and after-parties,” said Forman. “The Chateau Marmont now has a contract, and I know they love after-parties.” 

“We love it when people have ceremonies and after-parties in hotels that have reached agreements to support those workers,” added Local 11 spokesperson Maria Teresa Kamel.

WGAW looks forward to returning to union-staffed hotels for future events and meetings as UNITE HERE secures contracts for its members. 

UNITE HERE urges travelers and event-goers to consult the Fair Hotel website before booking travel or RSVP-ing for any event or party. Supporters may also donate to the Local 11 mutual aid fund

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