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OPINION -- Local 11 May Throw a Wrench into the City's Climate Action Plan

Charlyce Bozzello

May 30, 2019 -- The City of Santa Monica has some lofty environmental goals -- many of which it hopes to achieve by 2030 as part of its Climate Action Plan passed by City Council last Tuesday ("Santa Monica Adopts $800 Million Plan to Fight Climate Change," May 29, 2019).

But there could be a hitch in the city’s plan. Surprisingly enough, it comes from one of the state’s most self-proclaimed progressive labor unions: Unite Here Local 11.

Hospitality worker union Unite Here Local 11 recently signed a contract with the Hilton Anaheim that bans the hotel from introducing “programs that allow guests to go without room cleaning for several days.”

It may sound like a small stipulation, but it could have a large impact on the hotel’s ability to keep up with the city’s environmental goals.

It certainly puts the Hilton’s chance at receiving a “Green Seal” hotel certification at risk. Green Seal, an organization that certifies hotels based on how environmentally sustainable they are, recognizes eleven hotels in the state of California.

More than half are not organized by Local 11. Of the hotels that are, only one is certified at the "gold" level (the best out of a 3-tier ranking system). The Hilton Anaheim isn’t certified at all. Neither are any hotels in Santa Monica.

Green Seal’s Standard for Hotels and Lodging Properties requires properties to offer guests the option to reuse towels or linens—an effort that could contribute to Santa Monica's goal to achieve water self-sufficiency by 2023.

It also helps conserve energy, another large part of the city's goal to "shift away from fossil-fuel use."

But banning the option to skip housekeeping doesn’t only put the city’s environmental goals in jeopardy -- it could also put tourism at risk.

Hotel guests increasingly look for lodging that boast “green” programs. In fact, one study found 68 percent of tourists prefer to book at eco-friendly hotels. It turns out that going green is not only good for the environment, but good for business as well.

Consider the success Marriott has seen with its Make a Green Choice program. Hotels across the country have started allowing guests to skip housekeeping—encouraging them to reuse towels, which cuts back on energy and water use.

Marriott then gets to advertise the program’s benefits to its guests.

A hanging door knob sign at the Marriott’s Sheraton Boston Hotel assures environmentally conscious customers that each day they skip housekeeping, they’re saving “37.2 gallons of water, 0.19 kilowatt hours of electricity, 25,000 BTUs of natural gas, and 7 ounces of cleaning products.”

Beyond its environmental benefits, the company reports the program has had a positive impact on its expenses.

But Local 11 has fought against these green policies at Marriott hotels by leaving leaflets in guest’s rooms that ask them to “Say NO to Marriott’s Green Choice.”

Will Local 11 seek a similar "green out" at its organized hotels in Santa Monica? It seems likely; the union’s inevitable goal—already playing out at the Hilton Anaheim—is banning these policies altogether.

But if it’s good for the environment and good for the tourism industry (where the union’s own members make their livelihood), why is Local 11 determined to ban these green choice programs?

It claims such programs would hurt workers. More likely, the union's real concern comes from a possible drain on its bank account when it has less dues-paying members in its ranks.

It may be too late for the Hilton Anaheim, but Santa Monica should consider whether or not the union’s demands represent what’s best for the city's $800 million Climate Action Plan investment -- or even what’s best for the union’s own members.

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


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