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Santa Monica Hotel Workers Want to Know Who They Work For
By Jonathan Friedman
July 3, 2017 -- At the request of unionized hotel workers, the Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously last week to instruct City staff to draw up legal language to make it a requirement that the “true owner” of a hotel be disclosed.
A UNITE HERE Local 11 researcher and a dishwasher at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel made the request while speaking under public comment on a related item on last Tuesday's agenda to instruct City staff to explore how to protect Santa Monica’s beachfront hotels from being transformed into condos.
The council also voted unanimously for that measure in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
These issues were sparked by the recent purchase of Loews by the Chinese firm Anbang Insurance Group, which is said to have strong ties with that nation’s government.
Anbang had also purchased the historic Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City and is converting a portion of it into condos.
“This isn’t just theoretical; this is local and immediate,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who had proposed the agenda item along with Mayor Ted Winterer and Councilmember Tony Vazquez.
Farid Chevez, a Loews dishwasher, said workers have been talking about the new ownership, and have been unable to get answers from Anbang to questions about their union contract.
“We believe as the workers, we have the right to know who the owner is and where they are,” Chevez said.
Danielle Wilson, a UNITE researcher, added, “We are concerned about Anbang’s murky ownership and sources of capital.
"We urge the City of Santa Monica to strengthen disclosure of hotel ownership in the city.”
The item to discuss how to prevent beachfront hotels from being converted into condominiums was placed on the agenda at the request of McKeown, Mayor Ted Winterer and Councilmember Tony Vazquez ("Councilmembers Fear Conversion of Santa Monica Beachfront Hotels to Condos," June 23, 2017).
“International investment trends show multinational corporations gobbling up American hospitality facilities, sometimes to cash them out by conversion of hotels into luxury condos,” McKeown wrote in an email to The Lookout.
At the moment, this scenario happening in Santa Monica appears to be hypothetical.
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