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OPINION -- A Year of Unite Here Local 11

By Charlyce Bozzello

Southern California residents may ring in the new year by resolving to change for the better, but they shouldn’t hold their breath that the area’s most controversial union will do the same.

If Unite Here Local 11’s track record is any indicator of what’s to come, we can predict the goal they’ll be chasing in 2019: increased membership at any cost.

Rather than recapping highlights, here’s a look back at the eleven "low-lights" from Local 11 in 2018.

1) The union threw its weight (and members' dues money) behind two self-interested ballot measures, one in Rancho Palos Verdes and one in Long Beach. Both measures would require hotels provide panic buttons for their employees—unless they have a collective bargaining agreement with the union. The measures also include controversial workload limitations that would hurt hotel employees more than it would help them.

2) While collecting signatures to place this measure on the ballot in Long Beach, the senior vice president of the area’s Chamber of Commerce accused the union of handing out “a lot of misinformation” to potential voters. Most notable was the union’s repeated claim that “80 percent of hotel maids in Long Beach have been assaulted.” In fact, a police memo from 2017 states that between September 2016 to August 2017, hotels in the area only reported two assaults.

3) In a strange coincidence, Santa Monica’s Commission on the Status of Women recommended adopting similar hotel worker restrictions without going through the Council’s usual process of investigating the potential impact of such regulations. Perhaps this breach of protocol had something to do with the text of the regulation, which was copied almost exactly from a Local 11 memo.

4) Speaking of unpopular ballot measures, union-backed Measure L was aimed at raising the minimum wage for businesses receiving tax subsidies in Anaheim, including large hospitality employers. Several other unions in the area took issue with this measure, with some members claiming it put Local 11’s interests first “at the expense of everyone else.”

5) Residents at the Hesby Apartments in North Hollywood might remember Local 11’s infamous 7am protest that left many sleepy tenants annoyed, to put it mildly. In an effort to protest short term rental units, union members were loudly chanting and picketing outside the apartment complex, only to be greeted by several angry residents who had a few choice words for the protesters.

6) Of course, we can’t forget the union's controversial development agenda in Santa Monica. This year, Local 11 supported construction of what would be one of the tallest buildings in the city, despite the fact that over 62 percent of residents opposed development of such tall hotels, according to an Eyes on 11 survey of Santa Monica voters. Why did the union’s interests break so sharply with the community’s wishes? Simple. The hotel agreed to staff union workers, meaning more dues money in Local 11’s pockets.

7) Meanwhile, the union fought against the more popular Robertson Lane hotel project in West Hollywood because the owner refused to sign a collective bargaining agreement with Local 11. Despite the owner’s concessions—he agreed to pay workers a $15 minimum wage and provide staff with panic-buttons—Local 11 continued to block the hotel’s construction at every turn.

8) Then there’s the several unfair labor practice charges that have been brought against the union, as well as the lawsuits filed against Unite Here locals. Over the summer, for instance, an employee at Terranea Resorts in Rancho Palos Verdes filed charges against Local 11, claiming Local 11 had launched an illegal campaign to coerce Terranea employees to certify the union without a secret ballot vote.

9) More recently, Evans Hotels, LLC filed a lawsuit against Unite Here Local 30, claiming the union “abandoned traditional (and legal) of labor democracy in favor of...extortion, threats, and intimidation.” The lawsuit cites years of abuse and corruption that defined the Local’s playbook in San Diego.

10) Litigation aside, Local 11 also came in close proximity to a sexual harassment scandal this year. Rabbi Klein, former executive director for the union’s front group Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), recently stepped down amid accusations of sexual misconduct and workplace abuse. Despite being a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement, Local 11 remained uncharacteristically silent about these allegations. Incidentally, according to the union’s federal LM-2 filings, Local 11 has given CLUE more than $600,000 since 2010.

11) Finally, Local 11’s gift to Southern California tourists this holiday season was a threat to strike at hotels across Los Angeles County. Although the union has reached collective bargaining agreements at a few of these hotels, the jury is still out at several other locations—including the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica.

Charlyce Bozzello is a communications manager for the Center for Union Facts

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