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L.A. Staring Down a ‘Hot Labor Summer’ as UPS and Hotel Workers Strike

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A specter is haunting Los Angeles—the specter of labor unrest.

On Wednesday, the union representing employees of United Parcel Service announced that contract negotiations had collapsed. There are more than 30,000 UPS workers in Southern California. Their union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, has made it clear that UPS members will not work beyond the expiration of the current contract.

It is one of several breakdowns in organized-labor bargaining this summer as labor tensions simmer around Los Angeles.

One major Hollywood union—the Writers Guild of America (WGA)—went on strike on May 2, upending production schedules in Hollywood, holding up movie release dates and altering the production of TV shows. 

Now the actors’ union contract—between the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA)—is set to expire on Friday, opening the possibility of a second labor strike in the entertainment industry. (The actors staved off the immediate threat of a work stoppage when they agreed to keep negotiating with major Hollywood studios until mid-July.) 

Another costly strike could affect the port of Los Angeles, the leading gateway for international trade in North America. Contract talks between the International Longshore and the Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Assn. have stalled, a signal that labor unrest in L.A. will likely continue to flare. 

Not to be outdone, thousands of cooks, maids, dishwashers, servers, bellmen and front-desk agents—members of Unite Here Local 11—walked off the job over the Fourth of July weekend. Contracts expired at midnight Friday for 61 Southern California hotel sites.

“Hot labor summer,” a phrase popularized by Lorena Gonzalez, executive secretary of the California Labor Federation, has set the tone. 

The L.A. Dodgers avoided a strike when they caved to the demands of ushers, groundskeepers and other workers for significant raises. In the spring, bus drivers, custodians and special education assistants at L.A. Unified School District (LAUSD) struck for a new district contract

Even L.A. Starbucks employees in Cypress Park, who joined a nationwide strike in June, have united with the strike wave. So have workers at Medieval Times in Buena Park, who went on strike in February.

In 2023, roughly half of the major work stoppages in the U.S. occurred in California.

The battle for higher wages and better benefits is expected to continue over the summer.

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