Sep 8, 2022 - News

Diplomat Beach Resort workers threaten to strike for better pay

A worker in a gray uniform stands in front of the white and turquoise Diplomat Resort.
A worker in front of the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood last week. Photo courtesy of MJ Leira/Unite Here Local 355

Hundreds of Diplomat Beach Resort workers are threatening to strike if their union is unable to reach an agreement with the Hollywood hotel on its new contract.

Driving the news: Workers at the Diplomat voted Friday to authorize a strike. They are part of the Unite Here Local 355 union, which represents about 7,000 hospitality workers in South Florida, including more than 400 at the Diplomat.

  • The workers are negotiating a new contract after their former one expired Aug. 31. Workers want non-tipped employees to be paid a minimum of $20 per hour within three years.

Flashback: The 1,000-room Diplomat Beach Resort closed for 14 months during the pandemic after many conferences and events were canceled. Many workers were laid off.

  • Since the hotel reopened in June 2021, inflation and housing prices have skyrocketed in the area.

But business has improved for the Diplomat's owner, Brookfield Asset Management, which reported record financial results, including $12.4 billion of net income last year.

  • The Diplomat reported negative cash flow for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, according to Fitch Ratings. Though the hotel has somewhat recovered, reporting a net cash flow of $13.5 million in the 12 months preceding March 2022.
  • Yes, but: That's still well below pre-pandemic levels. The hotel reported a cash flow of $45.8 million in the 12 months preceding July 2019.

What they're saying: Ines Santisteban, a housekeeper at the hotel for 20 years, tells Axios she cleans 15 rooms per day and earns $17.30 per hour. (Housekeepers start at $13.95 per hour.)

  • She said that the housekeeping staff has been cut from more than 100 to 60, and because management decided that rooms should not be cleaned daily, they are harder to clean when guests check out.
  • Those take "three times longer to clean because you have piles of garbage, dirty sheets, piles of dirty towels," Santisteban said. "One person is doing the job of three people."

Wendi Walsh, the union's secretary and treasurer, tells Axios, "Workers are getting squeezed — and these are really loyal workers. It's just untenable."

Brookfield Asset Management did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment Wednesday.

What's ahead: A union representative tells Axios that talks are scheduled to resume Monday and a strike could follow if parties cannot reach an agreement.

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