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Hotel Workers Union Endorses Raskin, Torosis, Zwick

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By Jorge Casuso

September 9, 2022 -- Three City Council challengers have won the backing of the local hotel workers union, giving them a boost at Sunday's Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) political convention.

UNITE HERE Local 11 announced on Friday it has endorsed Planning Commissioner Ellis Raskin, Rent Board Commissioner Caroline Torosis
and public policy adviser Jesse Zwick in the November 8 race for three Council seats.

“Santa Monica has long been an incubator of progressive policy, from rent control to the first private sector minimum wage," said Kurt Petersen, the union's co-president.

"We need voices on the City Council who are going to continue to center the needs of renters and workers,” Petersen said.

The three union-endorsed candidates -- along with incumbent Lana Negrete and former League of Women Voters president Natalya Zernitskaya -- are vying for the SMRR endorsement at what promises to be a sparsely attended convention.

"I don't expect a big turnout," said Patricia Hoffman, a longtime SMRR leader. "I'm quite concerned."

According to Hoffman, some members who were expected to attend the convention have COVID or are married to someone with COVID.

"It's to late to have an online meeting or hybrid meeting," Hoffman said.

In 2020, some 150 voters participated in the group's first virtual convention, which lacked the large number of seniors who usually attend ("SMRR Backs Incumbents," August 31, 2020).

A low-turnout Sunday could give added weight to the three union-endorsed candidates.

"We have our caucus," said Danielle Wilson, a research analyst for the local union. "We have a pretty large membership at SMRR."

Wilson expects 15 to 20 union members will turn out to vote on Sunday.

According to SMRR's bylaws, only members who joined the group at least 90 days before the convention can vote.

For four decades, SMMR's convention has been a cornerstone of Santa Monica's election season, generating heated floor debate and sometimes intriguing behind-the-scenes moves to win the coveted endorsement.

Traditionally both the union and SMRR endorsements have been backed by hefty war chests and armies of canvassers that went door-to-door before the coronavirus emergency erased that advantage.

Wilson expects "everyone" will be "everywhere" again this election season.

In addition to the Council endorsements, UNITE HERE Local 11 announced Friday it is endorsing incumbents Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Laurie Lieberman, and challenger Alicia Mignano, in the race for four School Board seats.

The union also is endorsing incumbents Sion Roy, Barry Snell and Nancy Greenstein, and challenger Tom Peters in the race for four seats on the College Board.

Explaining its Council endorsements, union officials said Raskin "has fought to protect coastal access" while Torosis "works in her professional capacity to create good jobs across the county."

Zwick, the union said, "has worked on policy to increase affordable housing production and prevent gentrification."

At Sunday's convention, SMRR members will vote o endorse candidates in all local races, as well as measures on the ballot.

The SMRR 2022 Annual Membership Convention will be held Sunday at 3 p.m. at the John Adams Middle School cafeteria "outdoors."

To be eligible to vote, members must have paid their 2022 dues and have joined prior to June 13.

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