Press Release: 02/22/2019
Media Contact: Maria Hernandez
Kevin De Leon, Workers and Immigrant Rights Activists File for Investigation of Immigration-Related Threats Against Freehand Employees
If you keep organizing, management will check your papers, workers say
Los Angeles, CA- Nearly 75 workers, immigrants’ rights groups like CARECEN, CHIRLA, Miguel Contreras Foundation, KIWA and former State Senator Kevin De Leon filed an official complaint calling on the California Labor Commissioner to investigate the Freehand Hotel for allegedly making immigration-related threats against its employees for exercising their rights under the California Labor Code.
The complaint relies on protections under AB 263 (2013), which prohibits employers from engaging in unfair immigration-related practices against employees in retaliation for exercising their Labor Code rights.
“A security guard looked for me when I was working and said that the General Manager was going to check our papers and fire us if we continued to organize,” said Mirna Lopez, a Public Areas Attendant at the Freehand Hotel for two years.
This is one of the first times that the protections for immigrant workers enacted under AB 263 are being put to use in Los Angeles. If found in violation, the Freehand Hotel could have all of its licenses temporarily suspended.
Among supporters was former State Senator Kevin De Leon, who said, “We are all human beings, and we all deserve to live with dignity and respect.”
For months now, workers at the Freehand have been organizing in response to poor working conditions and possible wage theft. In January, workers and LGBTQ allies held an actionoutside of the hotel after a security guard allegedly made offensive remarks referencing the Westboro Baptist Church to a group of clergy and LGBTQ activists who spoke out in support of the workers.
“The hotel increased our workload, and in order to finish we skip our breaks. The pressure sometimes forces us to work off the clock and the hotel knows about this and does nothing, so we decided to come together and organize,” said Elva Sarceño, a housekeeper at the Freehand Hotel for two years.
Workers are asking for a fair process to organize.
The operator of the Freehand Hotel, Sydell Group also operates the LINE Hotel in Koreatown, where workers have a union and are currently in contract negotiations.
UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union that represents over 31,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona. Our members work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers, and airports.