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OPINION -- Local 11's Push for Harmful Hotel Worker Policies

By Charlyce Bozzello

The verdict is in on Unite Here Local 11’s so-called "Hotel Housekeepers’ Bill of Rights," and it doesn't look good for hotel employees.

It turns out the law being drafted by the City of Santa Monica -- which would mandate hotels install panic buttons and limit “unreasonable” workloads -- would actually “hurt those it intends to help” ("Proposed Santa Monica Law to Protect Hotel Housekeepers Could Backfire, Report Says," May 21, 2019).

This should come as no surprise considering the law's questionable origin. Far from relying on independent research and input from the community, the City Council asked Local 11 to “work quickly to get something to them” on the union’s hotel policy agenda.

To avoid the appearance of favoritism or deference to the union, the Council then asked the city’s Commission on the Status of Women to bring the union’s suggestions forward ("Union-Backed Proposal Takes Unusual Route to City Council Agenda," October 19, 2018).

Councilmembers easily agreed to draft the law (it was, after all, their idea) ("City to Draft Groundbreaking Ordinance Protecting Santa Monica Hotel Workers from Sexual Violence," October 18, 2018).

Even worse than adopting the union’s policies at face value, the Council also decided against having a study done on the law's potential impact.

This means there is very little, if any, evidence that this law would work, as the union claims, to “protect the workers whose labor enables the Santa Monica tourism industry to thrive.”

A new report from a team of consultants with deep experience in California state government takes the guesswork out of how these policies would really impact tourism in Santa Monica -- and the hundreds of workers employed by the industry.

The report found that an ordinance restricting how and when hotels can schedule their employees could increase housekeeping costs "by between 32 to 65 percent a year." Such an increase in labor costs might encourage hotels to layoff staff members entirely.

It could also hurt workers who rely on overtime opportunities -- or at least enjoy having the option to earn some extra income when they're able to.

As for mandating panic buttons, the report found all the hotels who had been interviewed "either already provide them or are in the process of procuring them."

At a recent rally led by Local 11, the union christened the still unwritten legislation as the Hotel Housekeepers’ Bill of Rights --claiming the law for its own, and removing any lingering doubts about who is really behind these policies ("Hotel Housekeepers to Rally at City Hall Tonight," March 26, 2019).

This comes as another unsurprising revelation since the Commission’s recommended language for the ordinance was essentially copied and pasted from a union memo.

It may be too late for cities like Long Beach that have already been bullied into accepting the union’s agenda. But Santa Monica has the benefit of reviewing the research before bringing a potential law forward. Councilmembers would be wise to seize the opportunity.

Charlyce Bozzello is the communications director for the Center for Union Facts

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