The Chateau Marmont is Treating Employees Like “Insects​” During the Pandemic

Published on June 19, 2020

Chateau Marmont has a long history… of catering to the rich. It’s a hotel for the richie richs of the world. The price of a bungalow for a night? Thousands of dollars. Admittedly, the beautifully made hotel on Sunset Blvd, which has been home to celebs and tragedy, is pretty on the outside. On the inside? Not as pretty of a picture, based on how the staff has been treated during the pandemic.

The Situation 

The hotel, founded in 1929, laid off 242 employees in March. Employees with 20 years of experience and a wage of $18 an hour were let go. Ten days later, those employees lost their health insurance. As bellman Mike Racanelli told Page Six

“We were terminated during a pandemic and then our health care [benefits were] taken away. We were left high and dry.”

Here’s a 20+ years employee’s account of their experience:

“I worked there for 23 years. We got nothing. We were thrown on the street like insects. I’ve been applying for other jobs, but with my experience in hospitality there aren’t any openings.”

The Protest 

Only days ago, employees of the iconic hotel took to protesting outside their former workplace. On Wednesday, employees put a caravan outside the hotel calling for help. United Here, which reps 30,000 hotel workers, showed their support for the Chateau’s non-union workers. The Andaz West Hollywood and 1 Hotel West Hollywood hotels, on the other hand, are taking care of their employees, thanks to United Here.

A Word from an L.A. Councilman

L.A. City Councilman David Ryu is looking out for the +200 employees as well. A week ago, Ryu sent a letter to the president and CEO of the Chateau, André Balazs, expressing concern and offering potential solutions. Ryu said: 

“I have heard from Chateau workers who, despite the fact that we are experiencing the worst public health crisis in a century, have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance. This means that these workers need to pay over $400 per month for health insurance while laid off. I ask that you emulate your industry peers by guaranteeing employer-sponsored health insurance for your laid off workers.” 

The Owner’s Response

The owner of the Chateau Marmont has a reported net worth of $700 million. Now, those numbers are sometimes far from accurate, but considering his work history and how much his hotel charges for a night or, heck, even their cocktails, it’s fair to assume Balazs has enough money to look out for his underpaid employees. 

Balazs sugar-coated the situation, saying the hotel gave $250,000 to employees, based on seniority. The owner tried to defend himself:

“Affected employees received equitably divided financial support based on seniority, which provided a minimum of $350 to everyone who may have worked for only months to well over $5,000 for our much treasured, long-tenured employees. All members of our team today retain full and complete health-care benefits…. As the business hopefully — but most certainly, fitfully — returns to normal,  we are especially grateful to those who may choose to return to work with us as business makes it possible.”

Since leaving the Chateau’s loyal employees high and dry and fearful for their health and livelihoods, the hotel has continued to house high-profile celebs. The hotel is still looking out for the rich, of course. Balazs noted he did a fundraiser for his hotel employees, raising over $165,000 for affected workers. The likes of Sam Rockwell, Patricia Arquette, and Ryan Murphy even pitched in to help. Out of Balazs’ reported $700 million net worth, he donated $100,000. 

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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