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LETTERS: Will the City Council Play Local 11's Game?

September 10, 2019

Dear Editor,

Tonight, the Santa Monica City Council will vote on whether or not to adopt controversial workload limitations for the city's hotel housekeepers.

If the Council was intending to act as a truly independent democratic body -- and not as a mouthpiece for Unite Here Local 11 -- here's how events could reasonably unfold.

First, an enlightened Councilmember would point out the most obvious problem with the proposed law: It can be superseded by any hotel that has a collective bargaining agreement with the union.

He or she would then wonder how the Council can, in good faith, mandate that only non-unionized housekeepers limit their workloads to 3,500 square feet per shift.

We know based on Lookout reporting that workers at unionized hotels typically clean much more than that -- up to 6,000 square feet per shift. ("Most Union Housekeepers Have Heavier Workloads Than Required by Hotel Ordinance," September 9, 2019).

The Council would then ask why Local 11 would want to exempt itself from these changes. Of course, the logical answer would become clear: Because the union knows these restrictions are unpopular with -- and even harmful to -- its represented workers.

At this point, the concerns levied by numerous non-unionized housekeepers throughout the city will begin to hold a lot more weight.

Maybe what these workers have been trying to tell Council all along -- that workload restrictions could result in reduced opportunities for additional earning -- is true. It would explain why the union itself refuses to play by these new rules (but doesn't mind if other hotels have to).

The night would end with a housekeeper protection ordinance that preserves a panic button requirement, but drops the workload restrictions -- which were never related to housekeeper protection, anyway.

Given the questionable path this legislation took through Local 11 to City Council, it's unlikely a public unmasking of the union's true motives will play out tonight. But we can always hope.

Charlyce Bozzello is a communications director at the Center for Union Facts

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