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OPINION -- City Study Highlights Local 11's Self-Interested Motive

By: Charlyce Bozzello

The City of Santa Monica has released a long-awaited study on the potential impact of a hotel housekeeper protection law ("Staff Recommends Hotel Housekeepers Ordinance But Raises Concerns," August 12, 2019).

Beyond raising serious concerns regarding restrictions on employee scheduling, the report highlights Unite Here Local 11’s real motive for passing such an ordinance. Spoiler alert: It has very little to do with protecting workers.

Putting the issue of mandated panic-buttons aside (the report finds that most hotels either already have them, or have implemented even more sophisticated safety systems) the City’s findings are still cause for hesitation.

Most notable is the City’s admission that “implementing a 'one-size fits all' policy regarding safety and workload requirements” could be a serious “challenge” for hotels.

According to the report, Local 11 has proposed "that the City’s ordinance define ‘humane workload’ by setting a maximum square footage cap for a standard workday that is lower than what other cities have enacted.”

In addition to being unprecedented, the suggested workload cap could result in employees finishing their work in less time than a typical 40 hour work week -- especially at smaller hotels.

This means many full time employees may be demoted to part time, therefore losing the benefits that come with full time status. Alternatively, their jobs could be cut entirely.

As for any notion of widespread public support of such a law in the city, Council should consider that of the letters received in favor of the ordinance, less than half were from actual Santa Monica residents.

That's not even the worst part: If Local 11 gets its way, the law will exempt unionized hotels from complying with any mandated workload limitations.

Just as Local 11 fought to exempt unionized hotels from complying with a new minimum wage law, it seems the union is poised to pass yet another union loophole in Santa Monica.

Workers donning red “Unite Here” t-shirts and marching in favor of this legislation should consider the fact that they’re the very employees who won’t be covered by it.

This “do as I say, not as I do” attitude is nothing new for the union.

Just last year, Local 11 gave over $100,000 to its partner group Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE).

During the same year, CLUE’s former executive director stepped down amid accusations of sexual misconduct and worker abuse, including wage violations. The union has yet to address the scandal publicly (For more information click here)

That’s not the only skeleton in Local 11’s closet. When the union’s current Co-President Ada Briceño was head of Local 681 (now merged with Local 11), the union was convicted of discriminating against employees based on age and race.

In a lawsuit filed against the union, employees described facing “daily discrimination” and “harassment” from Briceño and her colleagues. The union paid out almost $1 million in damages and legal fees. (For more information click here)

Given Local 11's track record, and this less-than-encouraging report from City staff, hotel employees should be wary of the union's promise to "protect workers."

By fighting for a union exemption, Local 11 makes it clear that these workload restrictions are less about employee safety and more about providing the union with yet another bargaining chip.

Before pushing for a bill that could impact the entire city -- employees and employers alike -- Local 11 might consider getting its own house in order first.

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

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