(VitalNews.org) – Hotels in Los Angeles have replaced their striking workers with illegal immigrants, according to a report released by the striking workers’ union. The Unite Here Local 11 Union has condemned the Los Angeles businesses for hiring cleaning staff from a Skid Row homeless shelter in order to make up for the shortfall in staffing caused by strikes. More than 15,000 hotel employees have been striking on and off since July in disputes over wages, working conditions, and job benefits.
The co-president of the union, Kurt Petersen, berated the hotels for “stooping to a new low” by “forcing” the homeless migrants to cross the picket line. One migrant, 39-year-old Norelis Vargas, who had been living at the Union Mission homeless shelter with her husband and three children after they left Venezuela, spoke of her discomfort after encountering striking workers. Vargas was one of the migrants who signed up for cleaning work, but she only realized that she was intended to replace striking workers when she saw them forming a picket line outside the Four Points at Sheraton, the hotel she had been hired to work at. She said that she supported their decision to “fight for their rights” and felt guilty at potentially undermining their strike.
Asylum seekers face some legal restrictions on employment and are not allowed to work for 150 days after submitting an asylum application. However, President Biden recently granted Venezuelan refugees Temporary Protected Status, which allows them to apply for a work permit. It is also legal for businesses to hire new staff during a strike.
District Attorney George Gascón has begun an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recent migrant hires. Gascón, who recently won the endorsement of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, a coalition made up of around 300 union, vowed to use the full force of the law against the hotels should they be found to be breaking labor regulations, such as hiring minors without the appropriate permits. As he announced the investigation, he stated that he would allow “no tolerance for the exploitation of refugees”.
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