Security guard at homeless housing hotel assaulted striking workers, they allege

Striking hotel workers allege they were assaulted by a security guard while picketing outside L.A. Grand Hotel on Friday morning.

Three L.A. Grand employees and one organizer with Unite Here Local 11, the union representing the striking employees, were injured in the altercation.

As striking employees marched down the hotel’s driveway, a security guard started yelling expletives at one of the workers, said Julio Lopez, 44, a Unite Here Local 11 organizer. Workers reported the incident to a supervisor, who called the guard inside.

Lopez and two workers said in interviews that the guard emerged from the hotel lobby shortly after. He approached picketers again, speaking aggressively. He punched one worker in the face and shoved Lopez, who said he fell to the ground and injured his knee. The guard then ran toward another worker, Rebeca Becerra, slapped her face, and dealt a blow to another worker nearby who tried to help, they said.

Becerra, 64, who has worked as a housekeeper at L.A. Grand for 26 years, said she felt dazed and nauseous, and tried not to fall.

“I didn’t even notice there was blood on my face until my co-worker told me I was bleeding,” Becerra said, pointing to her nose.

At that point, the guard began rummaging in his car, which was parked partially in the driveway, workers said.

“I was scared — I thought he might have a gun,” said Cristobal Guardado, 63, who was hit when he tried to help Becerra, sustaining a cut to his lip. “That’s what was going through my mind.”

Police and paramedics arrived about 30 minutes after the altercation, he said. Guardado said he didn’t feel well afterward; he said this type of stress has affected his health in recent years, ever since his son was killed by a former L.A. County sheriff’s deputy in 2020. Guardado, a cook at the L.A. Grand for about 35 years, said that when paramedics checked him, they told him his blood pressure was very high.

The downtown hotel is crucial to the mayor’s Inside Safe program, which seeks to dismantle homeless encampments and bring people indoors. The hotel has provided about 480 rooms for the city’s unhoused population since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The security guard involved in the incident was hired not by the hotel but by Weingart Center Assn., the nonprofit that provides case management services at L.A. Grand, said Russ Cox, a representative for Shenzhen New World I, the Chinese company that owns L.A. Grand.

“Strikers were blowing horns in face, he asked them to step back, and he lost his temper,” Cox said, according to an account of the incident relayed to him. “He shouldn’t have done that.”

The Weingart Center did not respond to a request for comment.

Security guards posted outside the hotel on Friday affiliated with United Private Security, a company based in Riverside, declined to comment.

Thousands of cooks, housekeepers, dishwashers, servers, porters and front desk agents at some 60 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties have been conducting intermittent strikes for nearly four months.

The alleged assault at the L.A. Grand is not the first time striking workers represented by Unite Here Local 11 have experienced violence and other tensions on the picket line. Angry guests have filed noise complaints about early morning protests. There were instances in which a passerby threw an egg and poured a cup of urine on workers.

In the summer, the union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board highlighting what it called a pattern of violent incidents and property destruction at picket lines by hotel security personnel and guests. The complaint listed three hotels it has now asked people to boycott — Hotel Maya, Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica and Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point.

The Friday altercation at L.A. Grand came just two days after picketers were hit by a car in driveway of the same hotel around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, workers said. That day, employees at L.A. Grand and dozens of other hotels across L.A. and Orange counties had launched a new wave of strikes.

L.A. Grand housekeeper Ana L. Pineda, 64, who was hit, said in an interview the car’s driver was also a security guard. Pineda said the hit seemed intentional, with the guard swerving toward her. She said her hip, elbow and shoulder were bruised and felt inflamed because of the altercation.

Officer Drake Madison confirmed reports were filed with the Los Angeles Police Department regarding both incidents. A report of a battery involving four victims and a security guard suspect was filed Friday. Injuries did not appear to be major, Madison said. He said the information was preliminary and detectives would investigate the incidents.

Friday afternoon, several hours after the alleged assault, a mariachi band played as striking workers took a break from marching outside the hotel to eat lunch. They loaded carne asada and rice and beans onto their plates and munched on slices of watermelon at tables set up under a canopy. A banner hanging from the canopy read, “L.A. Grand workers on strike.”


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