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Local Hotel Union Opposes Federal Bill Meant to Save Hotel Jobs

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By Jorge Casuso

May 25, 2021 -- The local union representing Santa Monica hotel workers sent a strong message Monday opposing a $20 billion federal bill sponsored by Democrats and backed by its parent union.

In a letter to Congressional members and the hotel industry, UNITE HERE Local 11 expressed its "firm opposition" to the “Save Hotel Jobs Act,” which would provide new grants and tax credits to help pay hotel employees and bring back laid-off workers.

The bill, the local union said, "would hand over" $20 billion to hotels that already have received an estimated $13.7 billion in public support, "while 75 percent of our members in the hospitality industry remain unemployed."

“Bringing back veteran workers should not come with a $20 billion price tag," said Kurt Petersen, co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

"This is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, and hotel workers who lost lives and livelihoods because of the pandemic," Peterson said.

"Any hotel employer using this as an opportunity to make money should be ashamed of themselves.”

The position taken by Local 11 -- which represents some 32,000 hospitality workers across Southern California and Arizona -- runs counter to the support of its parent union, which has some 300,000 members in the U.S. and Canada.

In a press release issued on April 28 by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) when he introduced the bill, UNITE HERE president D. Taylor lauded the first legislation targeting the battered industry.

"The Save Hotel Jobs Act will provide important assistance in bringing back good hospitality jobs and making sure that workers who were laid off during the pandemic are recalled back to work,” Taylor said in a statement.

Hospitality workers, Taylor said, "have been devastated by the pandemic," with 70 percent still out of work after 98 percent were laid off at the peak of the shutdowns.

Local 11 Co-President Ada Briceño said Congress needs to ensure there is "genuine transparency and accountability" in the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and that "any direct payments should go to struggling workers.”

Said Co-President Susan Minato, “The federal government has given millions in relief to these hotel conglomerates" through PPP loans. "It is time to put workers first."

The Center for Union Facts, a hotel union watchdog, noted that Local 11's three "front groups" have received nearly $900,000 in the PPP loans they criticize the hotels for taking ("Does Local 11 Really Want Hotels to Reopen?" April 28, 2021).

"It's not surprising that Local 11 would oppose a bill that its own parent union says would save countless hotel jobs," said Charlyce Bozzello, the Center's spokeswoman.

"This is the same local that strong-armed members into paying dues during the pandemic, while its leadership declined to take a pay cut. ("Local 11 Leaders Dodge Pandemic Pain in 2020," April 1, 2021).

"Hotel workers in Los Angeles should be furious to see this union put its own press clippings ahead of their well being," Bozzello said in a statement.

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