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Santa Monica Restaurateurs Protest 'Labor-Peace' Agreements
By Niki Cervantes
October 26, 2017 -- Some of Santa Monica’s most popular eateries, including the Spitfire Grill and Ye Old Kings Head British Pub, on Tuesday said “labor-peace agreements” proposed for City tenants like them would drive out small local restaurants, eroding the city’s iconic charm.
“It might be a bridge too far,” Donal Tavey, owner of downtown’s King’s Head, told the City Council in a study session on the City’s proposed labor-peace agreement (LPA) requirement for food-service tenants at City properties at Santa Monica Airport, the Pier, in downtown and at the state beach (where the City owns concession stands).
Tavey said many of the city’s small restaurateurs already have full plates of regulations -- including a higher minimum wage -- making it difficult to survive, let alone thrive.
Before the council was a proposal requiring most of the City’s 27 tenants in the food-operation business to “submit an executed LPA as a condition of entering into a lease with the City,” a staff report on the issue said.
Current labor-peace provisions in the Downtown and Pier leasing guidelines “do not require tenants to demonstrate an executed LPA; rather, the labor-peace provisions stipulate that all City Tenants operating under the leasing guidelines in Downtown and the Pier cannot impede employee efforts to organize.”
The council asked staff to dig into strengthening the City’s LPA’s last March.
The language on the table now is much like the LPA used by Los Angeles International Airport.
Council members expressed concern about the change on Tuesday, though, and ordered staff to examine allowing appeals of the required LPAs to a non-political impartial entity.
They also asked that specific language be created on the standards in the agreements and what would constitute willful non-compliance.
A key issue for the council and the many speakers who attended the work session was the recent picketing of the Spitfire Grill, which is located on SMO property.
A long-time tenant, the Spitfire Grill has reached an impasse in lease negotiations with the City, the staff report said. Because of the standstill in talks, Spitfire was not included a requirement that all the City’s SMO tenants have labor-peace agreements.
This month, the restaurant found itself picketed four times by a local union during peak business hours. Each incident ended up costing the business about $1,000.
Protesters from Unite Here Local 11 picketed and used a megaphone to yell, “No justice, no peace.”
Appearing before the council, owner John Clarizio the union is targeting his non-unionized restaurant, which has a staff of 37 people, all but about six of them part time.
He said his customers were upset by the protesting, as were the many people who drove away from the Spitfire, rather than wade into the picketing.
“It cleared us out,” Clarizio said.
For the council, incidents like those at the Spitfire demonstrated the need for peace-labor agreements as a way of protecting the City’s own revenue stream from tenants.
The City receives about $4.5 million from leases with 27 restaurants, most of them small businesses, and other food vendors.
Food carts on the Pier are exempted from the labor-peace proposal, as are food carts on the Promenade (although none currently operate there).
“Informational picketing on the Promenade is not something we want to see,” said Council Member Gleam Davis. “We have to do something, whether we want to or not.”
Tuesday’s vote to proceed was 5 to 2.
Council Members Terry O’Day and Pam O’Connor cast dissenting votes. In part, they were worried the City would become entangled in union-related issues, although the agreements are not part of the union negotiation process.
“Maybe we should just get out of the business of such agreements,” O’Connor said.
For almost 15 years, the City has required new leases on City-owned properties on the Pier and in downtown “to include provisions that minimize the likelihood of labor conflicts that could disrupt the payment of revenues to the City,” the staff report to the council said.
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