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Leader of Social Justice Group Involved in Santa Monica Organizing Efforts Resigns
By Jorge Casuso
November 26, 2018 -- Rabbi Jonathan Klein, the executive director of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) -- which has been a leading voice in union organizing efforts in Santa Monica -- has stepped down from his post.
Klein's resignation November 14 came "amid allegations of sexual harassment and workplace abuse" by seven current and former CLUE employees, according to a November 21 investigative report in the Jewish Journal.
Klein has called the allegations "false" and the board of the non-profit organization said they are “absolutely untrue and not accurate,” according the the report.
CLUE -- which includes some 900 religious and lay leaders -- most recently supported Unite HERE Local 11's efforts to pass local laws protecting housekeepers from sexual violence and heavy workloads.
The Santa Monica City Council last month voted to quickly draft a groundbreaking ordinance to require hotels to install "panic buttons" in all guest rooms ("City to Draft Groundbreaking Ordinance Protecting Santa Monica Hotel Workers from Sexual Violence," October 26, 2018).
The proposed ordinance also would protect hotel workers from "unreasonable workloads" and provide comprehensive education and training for supervisors and staff.
The employees interviewed by the Jewish Journal "described a pattern of sexual and workplace harassment by Klein," according to the report
They also "accused Klein of committing wage violations and inappropriately withholding pay, creating a 'culture of chaos,' constantly threatening their job security, overworking them, making inappropriate sexual remarks and inappropriately touching female employees’ breasts and thighs," according to the report.
CLUE announced Klein’s resignation 17 days after its board received a letter from ten CLUE clergy members demanding Klein’s “immediate removal,” according to the Journal.
Two weeks after the letter was sent, four of the signatories complained on their Facebook pages that they had not heard back from the board.
One of them was Janet Gollery McKeithen, president of the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council.
“I cannot remain silent and be complicit," McKeithen wrote. "I must speak up for people who are not being treated with dignity, but rather as people who are unworthy.
“I heard first hand, current and former employees of CLUE tell of allegations of sexual harassment and make claims of wage theft within that very organization.”
In his letter of resignation Klein said an independent investigation of the allegations found no evidence of wrongdoing, according to the Journal.
CLUE played a role in several organizing efforts launched by UniteHERE in Santa Monica.
In 2002, it was at the center of a battle to push for a pioneering living wage law that covered private businesses along the coast with no municipal contracts.
The law was approved by the Council but narrowly defeated at the polls after hotel owners placed their own initiative on the ballot and spent more than $2 million on the campaign ("Wage Battle Ends in Dashed Hopes," November 06, 2002).
Over the years CLUE has staged demonstrations in support of unionizing efforts, including the successful campaign to unionize the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot Hotel in 2016.
CLUE also was involved in efforts to unionize the Santa Monica Doubletree Hotel, which is owned by the School District ("Hotels Workers at Santa Monica DoubleTree Announce Decision to Join Union," June 14, 2017).
In her Facebook post, Gollery McKeithen pushed for the reorganization of the 22-year-old group.
"CLUE needs to be restored and restructured with new leadership that creates a space where workers are honored, respected, and treated with human dignity.
"I am ready to walk with my comrades (Staff & board) to bring accountability and help rebuild the organization."
“Death is terrifying, but Resurrection is sweeter.”
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