Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Hotel Union Urges Taller Buildings After Victory||
By Jonathan Friedman
November 18, 2016 -- One day after housekeepers at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot Hotel voted to form a union with UNITE HERE Local 11, union workers and officials urged city planners to allow taller buildings downtown.
Bolstered by a 27-15 vote Tuesday in favor of unionization, the hotel workers celebrated their victory with a rally in front of City Hall Wednesday shortly before the Planning Commission meeting.
The place and timing of the rally was strategically chosen because the main item on the commission's agenda was a review of the draft Downtown Community Plan (DCP), a document that sets the guidelines for development in the area.
UNITE wants more commercial development as a way to create jobs. Workers addressed the commission about this.
"We support these new projects that provide the opportunity for a lot more people to benefit in the way I have," said Maria Cortez, who addressed the commission through a translator.
Danielle Wilson, a research analyst for the union, told the commission that projects should be allowed to exceed the 84-foot height limit. Three downtown proposals are for buildings that exceed this limit.
"The proposed projects on these designated sites will bring the most comprehensive community benefits package the developer has offered to build in the city of Santa Monica,” Wilson said.
She continued, "We can expect affordable housing, local hiring and the creation of thousands of quality jobs to strengthen our shrinking middle class."
City officials say their outreach determined a majority of Santa Monica residents do not want projects to exceed the 84-foot height limit. But Wilson and others questioned this research.
Wilson said an online survey was not easily accessible because many local union members do not have the Internet.
She said none of the union's members were invited to any focus group sessions and there was no outreach to seek the opinions of those who only speak Spanish.
UNITE officials say Tuesday's vote in favor of unionization came after "an intense union-busting campaign" by hotel owner Columbia Sussex.
A spokesman from Columbia Sussex, which is based in Kentucky, did not return The Lookout’s phone call asking for comment.
Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), a local pro-union organization, alleged earlier this month that hotel management was requiring workers to attend “union-busting” meetings hosted by hired consultant MPI Consulting--even on their days off.
The hotel workers who voted for the union are predominantly female immigrants, UNITE says.
In a statement announcing the victory, UNITE noted the timeliness of the vote, which came one week after the presidential election of Donald Trump, who has threatened to deport at least some people who are in this country illegally.
"With Trump being elected president, we felt we urgently needed to become a union to stand up for immigrant workers under attack,” said housekeeper Filadelfia Alcala in a prepared statement.
She added, “I'm very proud of what my coworkers and I were able to achieve, a small group of immigrant women against a giant corporation, and we beat them!"
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