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Doubletree Reinstates Union Organizer

By Jorge Casuso

April 29 -- Elba Hernandez, a housekeeper at the Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel who was allegedly suspended 10 days ago for passing out union propaganda to hotel guests, was reinstated Friday after protests from union supporters.

The supporters -- who included community and clergy members -- staged a "sit-in" and prayer in the Doubletree restaurant last Tuesday and placed a hundred phone calls to the hotel's general manager on Wednesday asking for the reinstatement of Hernandez, who is widely known as an union organizing leader.

On Thursday, the hotel's human resources department notified Hernandez that she could return to work the next day, union representatives said.

"This is an important victory for us," Hernandez said in a news advisory issued by the union Monday. "Hotel management has been disrespecting our right to organize for months. Together with the Santa Monica community and clergy, we've shown that we have the right to organize for better working conditions."

Doubletree General Manager François Khoury issued a brief statement on Monday.

"The Doubletree Management continues to treat all employees with total fairness and respect," Khoury said. " Regardless of the outside pressure on our Hotel to become union, this conduct does not and will not influence our 'Employee Relations' guidelines or procedures. No one will ever distract us from doing what is right."

Emboldened by Hernandez's return, union supporters vowed to keep the pressure on the hotel, which sits on school district property.

"We're going to stand by the Doubletree workers until they win their fight," said Abby Arnold, a community activist and member of the Pier Restoration Corporation board. "An attack on Elba is an attack on the entire community."

"It is exceedingly rare that a worker gets reinstated after an 'indefinite suspension' but perhaps rarer still for a worker to receive the level of support that Elba has had this past week," said former Mayor Paul Rosenstein, a longtime union supporter.

Among those calling for the housekeeper's reinstatement were bishops from four of the largest Protestant denominations in Los Angeles County and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who wrote letters to the hotel.

The unionizing battle at the Doubletree has been escalating since the local Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee union took the campaign to the public in March, filling the School Board chambers to plead for support. Organizers also called on the district to evaluate its lease with the hotel, which it claimed was underpaying the school district.

The unionizing effort was the focus of a controversial march on the hotel staged by Samohi students and the union earlier this month in memory of United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez.
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