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New Anti-Labor Online Site Attacks Hotel Union for Pro-Development Push in Santa Monica

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 4, 2018 -- An anti-labor website debuting today accuses the local hotel union of using disruptive tactics to push for big hotel developments fought by Santa Monica neighborhood groups so it can amass dues from its members.

Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel and restaurant workers in Santa Monica and elsewhere in Southern California, “wants to see bigger and taller buildings--as long as it can extract dues revenue from employees,” says

“Local officials, residents, and even union members have criticized Local 11 for threatening Southern California’s peaceful way of life,” the site said.

Representatives of Local 11 had not yet seen the site on Wednesday, but said the organization hosting the site, The Center for Union Facts, is backed by Richard Berman, a big-money lobbyist in Washington D.C.

Berman, they said, has been aligned through the years with big industries such as tobacco and has a history of fighting “green” causes and union activities overall.

“This is an extreme right-wing organization with a hateful, anti-worker, anti-environment agenda,” said Danielle Wilson, a Local 11 representative.

“An east coast Republican who likens himself to Donald Trump and runs multi-million-dollar campaigns against living wage efforts has no place in Santa Monica politics,” Wilson said.

Luka Ladan, who heads communications for the center, said Eyes on Local 11 will provide “information about the union’s membership numbers, recent development projects, and long history of disruptive tactics.”

“It will also focus on how Local 11's development agenda is at odds with the preferences of many Southern California residents,” he said.

“The website highlights testimonials from Local 11’s many critic--including union members—who now have a platform to share their experience” with the center, he said.

Ladan said Local 11’s membership and dues revenue “have essentially doubled over the last decade, as its push for skyline-altering hotels has boosted its membership rolls.”

Although the union was overdue for critical attention, Ladan said, the website's launch was not politically motivated.

The website’s debut comes as Local 11 -- which for two decades has been a powerful force in Santa Monica politics -- is becoming highly active in the beach city's war over how much more development to allow and the fate of three major hotel-anchored projects for downtown ("Santa Monica Hotel Union Urges Taller Buildings After Victory," November 18).

Stalled by the long battle over a development plan for downtown, the projects are now moving to the fore and, if approved, would rival the biggest developments in half a century in Santa Monica.

The first of the three – the 338,695-square-foot hotel/mixed used project by Frank Gehry -- goes before the public on January 11 ("Frank Gehry Mixed-Use Hotel for Downtown Santa Monica on Front-Burner Again," December 22, 2017).

Also poised for fiery debate again is the 420,000-square-foot “Plaza at Santa Monica,” another hotel-mixed project, although on City-owned land, and the 568,940-square-foot expansion of the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel, not far away.

Because the three will be governed by individual development agreements, they can also exceed standard height limits of 84 feet to reach 130 feet in height.

As it was initially proposed, ”The Plaza,” at 4th/5th and Arizona, reaches 12 stories, or 148 feet in height. Gehry’s “Ocean Avenue Project” is 22 stories and the Miramar expansion was 21 stories before being pulled by the developers for redesign.

Local 11 recently took the unusual step of seeking a City probe of a Miramar rival, the Huntley Hotel, which last summer was fined $310,000 for money laundering during City elections to, in effect, hobble the Miramar expansion.

The union -- which represents Miramar hospitality workers, but not those at the Huntley -- also provided door-knockers in the 2016 campaign against Measure LV.

The unsuccessful measure would have slowed down development by imposing a public vote of most projects taller than 32 feet ("Santa Monica Council Incumbents Sweep, LV Loses Big," November 9, 2016).

In Santa Monica, the November 2018 City elections are again likely to be dominated by development. The local slow-growth camp is already talking about ballot measures to halt developments like “The Plaza,” if approved by the council.

Meanwhile, Council members are weighing whether agreeing to a requirement for a council “super-majority” for such large developments could prevent another LV-like war in 2018 ("Santa Monica City Council to Consider Ballot Measure Requiring 'Super-Majority' Vote for Biggest Projects," December 14, 2017).

The eyeson11 site also criticizes the City Council, which has a solid pro-union majority, with incumbents Kevin McKeown, Sue Himmelrich and Pam O’Connor facing reelection.

“Despite the opposition of its constituents, the Santa Monica City Council plays along," the anti-union website said. "As city pay and benefits climb, the need for larger building developments to generate revenue for the city rises."


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