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Local 11 Uses Coronavirus Concerns to Push Its Own Agenda

By Charlyce Bozzello

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Unite Here Local 11 put out a press release calling on the city of Los Angeles to “enact emergency legislation to enhance health protections for guests and workers.”

But it seems the union’s latest demands are inspired less by health and safety concerns and more by its own agenda.

In fact, a close look at the union’s press release suggests Local 11 is merely repackaging its usual policy pushes in an effort to take advantage of the panic surrounding this public health scare.

Among Local 11’s many initiatives is a call to “reduce workload [sic] for room attendants in hotels to provide extra time to meet Centers for Disease Control cleaning standards.” Sound familiar?

Santa Monicans should be particularly well-versed with the union’s quest to reduce the amount of square feet hotel housekeepers can clean per shift. Local 11 recently succeeded in passing such legislation in town, despite protests from hotel workers.

The law dramatically altered the way hotels could schedule their staff, potentially increasing the cost of housekeeping by up to 65 percent per year according to one study.

Hotel workers voiced concerns over the legislation, including less work flexibility, reduced opportunities to earn overtime pay, and the possibility of losing their full-time benefits if their hours were cut. But the Santa Monica City Council didn’t seem to mind.

The union knew its proposed workload changes were unpopular among both hotel staff and employers. That’s why Local 11 made sure unionized hotels were exempt from the new policy. The union has enacted similar legislation -- with similar exemptions -- in Long Beach and Oakland.

Given that track record, don’t be surprised if Local 11 tries to exempt unionized hotels from following its proposed workload regulations in Los Angeles.

Then, there’s the union’s call to “centralize public health training for hospitality workers.” Instead of allowing employers to control their own staff training, the union is asking that all training be conducted by a “non-profit authority.” It’s not hard to figure out exactly which non-profit Local 11 has in mind.

The Los Angeles Hospitality Training Academy (LAHTA) is a non-profit controlled by Local 11. Santa Monica is also familiar with this organization -- though its residents may not be.

Santa Monica has given over $580,000 to LAHTA since 2013. The non-profit's purpose is “placing students in jobs at hotels.” Of course, once a student becomes employed by a hotel, they’re expected to pay an initiation fee and dues to Local 11.

It’s no wonder the union wants to consolidate employee training under LAHTA since it's essentially a recruiting arm for Local 11.

Government leaders at the state, local, and federal level are working quickly to enact protections for workers whose livelihoods have been threatened by coronavirus.

By repackaging their usual self-interested demands as necessary precautions, Local 11 is clearly hoping to get its own priorities pushed through.

But the city of Los Angeles would be wise to consider how recent union-backed legislation has played out in other cities before rushing to comply with Local 11’s latest demands.

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

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