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Tensions Escalate on Hotel Picket Lines

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By Jorge Casuso

August 8, 2023 -- Union workers and hotel representatives are blaming each other for growing tensions on the picket lines as demonstrations picked up steam during a third wave of strikes.

On Monday, Unite HERE Local 11 denounced "a pattern of ugly episodes of violence," while the state's hotel association called the union out for its "extremely aggressive and unlawful protest tactics."

Ground zero was the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, one of five Santa Monica hotels targeted by the union and the destination of a union march on Saturday that culminated in a tense standoff diffused by the arrival of police.

Union officials pointed to a video spread widely on the internet that shows "workers and supporters were attacked and tackled to the ground by hotel security as they sought to establish a picket line."

The California Hotel & Lodging Association countered that the video shows Union representatives "kicking over barricades intended to maintain safety and order."

The increasingly tense protests come as negotiations between Unite HERE Local 11 and the Coordinated Bargaining Group representing 44 union hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties remain deadlocked.

The union is seeking an immediate $5 an hour raise for all union workers with an additional $3 an hour in subsequent years of the contract.

The bargaining group has offered to increase the hourly wage by $2 per hour immediately after ratification and another $1 per hour on July 1, 2024.

On Monday, the union announced it was filing an unfair labor practice charge against the bargaining group for the violence they say workers have experienced on the picket lines.

The volatile incidents that unfolded outside the Miramar on Saturday were not an isolated case, union officials said.

Also on Saturday, security personnel at the Maya Hotel in Long Beach "sought to forcibly relocate striking workers using a chain link fence while a guest ran around the fence and punched a worker in the head, pushing at least two others."

They also said workers at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Dana Point "have been repeatedly assaulted, threatened and had property destroyed," while the "celebrity chef" at the hotel restaurant "approached striking workers and broke a drum one of the workers was holding."

The hotels said they have asked police to take concrete steps to "protect guests, employees and our communities" from the "increasingly aggressive actions by picketers," said Pete Hillan, spokesperson for the California Hotel & Lodging Association.

Tensions are not only rising on the picket lines, some residents who live near the targeted hotels say they are losing their patience with the noisy protests.

"They start at 6:30 a.m.," said Charles Spinger, who lives in an affordable housing development next to the Hampton Inn & Suites on 5th Street and Colorado Avenue. "They're already banging on the drums.

"Then they get on megaphones and use sirens," Springer said. "It goes on until 6:30 at night."

Springer said a tenant who lives in a unit facing the hotel leaves for the day when the protests begin.

"They're disturbing the peace, they're violating the decibel levels for performances," said Springer, adding that he was a member of the Teamsters and Aerospace Workers unions who has walked the picket line.

"There's people in this neighborhood who agree they may need a raise,” he said, “but don't make us suffer because they're suffering."

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