UNITE HERE Local 11’s Statement on Right to Return to Work Bill Signed by Governor Newsom

UNITE HERE Local 11’s Statement on Right to Return to Work Bill Signed by Governor Newsom

California becomes first state in the U.S to pass historic worker protections

BREAKING NEWS:  We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of the Hospitality Workers Right to Return bill today which guarantees that hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers will have the legal right to return to work when tourism returns.

COVID-19 has devastated the tourism industry. More than a year after the pandemic began, 80% of hotel workers remain unemployed. Dozens of UNITE HERE Local 11 members have lost their lives to COVID-19.

During the worst health crisis in modern history, many hospitality employers–such as the Terranea Resort and Chateau Marmont–terminated workers who had made their hotels successful, without extending their healthcare or making any binding commitment to recall them when the crisis subsides.  By discarding their veteran employees when they needed them most, these irresponsible employers left workers in a state of profound insecurity, creating a critical need for right-to-return to-work legislation.

Beginning in May 2020, UNITE HERE Local 11 passed the nation’s first hospitality workers’ right to return to work law in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and elsewhere in Southern California. Similar legislation has since been passed throughout the country, including in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland, and Boston.

Today’s law covers the world’s largest tourism industry. More than 700,000 California hotel, event center, airport concession, and building services workers will now have the right to return to their jobs when the pandemic subsides.  This law brings hope and security to these professional service workers and their families.

“I’ve been struggling to make ends meet and was in the hospital for Covid-19 in January. Right now, I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay my medical bills and rent after my young daughter was also in the hospital for kidney failure. I want respect and rights for workers like me. I need to go back to work for my family and this law will help me do that,” said Antonio Rodriguez, who worked as a banquet server at Terranea Resort for 11 years.

We urge other states to follow Governor Newsom’s lead and guarantee the right to return to work to all hospitality workers in our nation.

“We know that the hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic, but it’s not the executives who are suffering. Their paychecks continue to come in. It’s working people who are paying the price,” said State Senator Maria Elena Durazo. “Too many times, after times of crises, we see the hotel industry come roaring back while their former workers are left out cold. Thanks to Governor Newsom’s signing of this bill, we are not going to let that happen this time around,”

“Workers need certainty right now as we reopen the state. Knowing they will be offered their jobs back should give hospitality workers a bit of long overdue relief. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

“I commend Governor Newsom for signing SB 93 into law and recognizing that California’s economy cannot recover without its workers. We saw firsthand the economic devastation the Great Recession had on the state’s workforce and during the pandemic, thousands across the hospitality and building services industry have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. In the face of an uncertain economic recovery, this legislation is a necessary yet reasonable approach that will ensure security for an already vulnerable workforce by affording long standing, qualified employees the opportunity to return to their jobs as businesses resume operations,” said Assemblyman Ash Kalra.

“I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing such a historic policy. The Los Angeles Labor Movement is proud to have stood in solidarity with the housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and airport workers to pass this landmark policy. This is a huge win for workers in California and is an example of what our movement can accomplish when we stick together and fight for common goal,” Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

We are grateful to the leadership and tenacity of our state Democratic legislators, especially Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, who valiantly fought for these workers. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, led by Ron Herrera, walked with us every step of the way, and we thank the MLB Players Association, the NFL Players Association, SAG AFTRA and CLUE and Jesuits West for their early support.

We are most inspired and humbled by the courageous room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, and food service workers who lobbied, picketed, and never doubted for a moment that they deserved to return to their jobs.

Laid Off Hotel Workers Protest Company’s $4.4 Million in Paycheck Protection Program Loans

Laid Off Hotel Workers Protest Company’s $4.4 Million in Paycheck Protection Program Loans, UNITE HERE Local 11 Files Complaint asking SBA to Investigate 

Four Points by Sheraton at LAX was approved for PPP Loan intended to retain workers and permanently closed the following week

Los Angeles, CA: On Wednesday, dozens of laid-off hospitality workers filed a complaint and protested outside the Four Points by Sheraton LAX. Workers demand the U.S Small Business Administration (“SBA”) conduct a full investigation of the $4.4 million in Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans approved for the hotel as owner Rui Gao permanently closed the hotel on February 5, only one week after being approved for its second loan.

“My coworkers and I were surprised to learn that our owner received millions in PPP loans. We did not see how any of that money got used to help us. Where is the money?” said Graciela Gomez, who worked cleaning rooms as a housekeeper at the Four Points by Sheraton LAX for 20 years.

Congress intended for PPP loans be used by small businesses to keep workers on payroll, not to subsidize large hospitality conglomerates. The hotel originally received $2.4 million in April 2020, and the SBA may have already “forgiven” this loan, converting it into a taxpayer grant.

The Paycheck Protection Program was intended to help small businesses cover payroll costs, but Local 11’s analysis of Small Business Administration data released on December 1, 2020 found that 4,064 California hotel borrowers collected $950 million in PPP loans. However, large hotel chains won an exemption from SBA rules that allowed them to apply for loans at multiple properties. Rui Gao Inc. may be one of these large firms that benefited from this loophole while small businesses were not able to access the program.

“Rui Gao knew what he was doing when he applied for the second round of PPP loans. It is disgusting to see how owners like him are taking money meant for struggling small businesses, while workers who dedicated their lives to them are fighting to survive,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President UNITE HERE Local 11.

“We hope that the SBA in partnership with the Department of Justice will take all appropriate measures to hold Rui Gao and other borrowers accountable for their use of these taxpayer funds,” continued Petersen.

The SBA has not presented any audit plan for Rui Gao or other large hospitality firms that were approved for millions in PPP loans, but instead has proceeded with processing loan forgiveness applications; as of April 1, SBA had forgiven and paid back over $209 billion—while denying forgiveness for only $700 million.  SBA disclosures reviewed by Local 11 do not indicate whether Rui Gao’s loans were forgiven.

Prominent Film Director Alfonso Cuarón Joins Boycott of Chateau Marmont

Alfonso Cuarón Joins Boycott of Chateau Marmont

The multi-Academy-Award-winner takes stand following lawsuit by
former worker alleging sexual harassment and race discrimination  

Los Angeles, CA: Alfonso Cuarón, multi-Academy Award-winner and Mexican film icon, pledged to boycott the Chateau Marmont until its workers are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. His pledge comes on the 1-year anniversary of mass firings and follows a lawsuit by a former worker alleging sexual harassment and race discrimination at the Chateau Marmont.

Alfonso Cuarón joins legend Jane Fonda in calling for a boycott of the Chateau Marmont until hotel management demonstrates a commitment to respect its workers’ years of service by rehiring them in accordance with their legal rights and to ensure that all workers—regardless of their race, sex, or background—feel treated with dignity and respect. Hundreds more have called for fair treatment of Chateau Marmont workers, including SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and the Hollywood chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Alfonso Cuarón has made breakthrough films uplifting the stories of the hardest working people in society, including his 2019 award-winning film Roma.  Cuaron is one of a handful of filmmakers to win an Oscar for Best Director multiple times (for Roma and Gravity) and the first Mexico-born filmmaker to win the award.

“To hear that Alfonso Cuarón, who I admire and had greeted for so many years, is fighting alongside me and my coworkers for the justice we deserve means the world to me,” said Carlos Barrera, 40-year garage attendant at the Chateau Marmont.

 Last month, workers and allies gathered outside the Chateau Marmont calling for the boycott of the hotel. Many of the hotel’s workers have spoken out about their experiences working at “Hollywood’s Playground,” prompting concern from community leaders. The Chateau Marmont fired virtually its entire workforce in March 2020, leaving workers who had dedicated decades of their lives to the hotel without job security or affordable healthcare during the pandemic. Earlier this year, former events server Thomasina Gross filed a lawsuit against the Chateau Marmont alleging that she experienced race discrimination and sexual harassment while working there.

Three Million Meals Prepared by “Serving Our Community” Free Meal Program

UNITE HERE Local 11 and Hospitality Training Academy Provide 1,100 Jobs

LOS ANGELES (March 3, 2021) — UNITE HERE Local 11 and Hospitality Training Academy’s “Serving Our Community” program prepared and delivered its three-millionth meal today. The milestone was celebrated at the LA Convention Center with City, County and State officials and representatives from UNITE HERE Local 11, Levy Restaurants, LA Convention Center, participating hotels, and the taxi and airport shuttle industry.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the program has employed 1,100 union and non-union workers in the hospitality, food service and taxi industries who were laid off due to the pandemic. With funding primarily from the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles, the three million meals have served 10,000 homebound seniors, people experiencing homelessness and low-income families.

These meals are cooked in the industrial kitchens at Levy Restaurants at the Los Angeles Convention Center, JW Marriott LA LIVE, The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort, Pomona College, Sheraton Grand LA and The Beverly Hilton, and then delivered by taxi cabs and airport shuttles.

Eric Garcetti, Mayor of the City of Los Angeles

“COVID-19 has posed unprecedented and unpredictable challenges across our communities, but it’s also shown us the true meaning of the Angeleno spirit — a collection of compassionate, generous, determined individuals ready to step up and support our seniors and our neighbors in need. Progress is made through partnerships, and the City is proud to work hand-in-hand with UNITE HERE, the Hospitality Training Academy, and the Serving Our Community program to create jobs for our hospitality workforce and deliver high-quality meals to our hardest-hit residents throughout this pandemic.” 

Local 11 Joins Assemblywoman Gonzalez to Continue the Fight to Protect Jobs of Workers Laid Off Due to COVID-19

SACRAMENTO–California’s hospitality workforce is experiencing unprecedented levels of unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced Assembly Bill 1074, supported by hotel workers and UNITE HERE Local 11, to make sure hospitality workers are able to return to work when their employers can safely resume business operations.

“Latinos have made up the backbone of the hospitality industry for decades. Many stayed with the same employers for years in order to work their way up and earn a stable living. They have already disproportionately suffered the brunt of this pandemic,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “When hotels and event centers can safely reopen, the least we must do is ensure workers can return to the jobs they previously held. AB 1074 is commonsense policy that provides the support our local communities need to recover from this economic crisis.”

Earlier today, Assemblywoman Gonzalez joined dozens of workers who caravanned from Los Angeles and Orange County to La Jolla for a press conference outside JC Resorts’ corporate headquarters. JC Resorts owns and operates hotels and golf courses across California, including the Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes, which terminated much of its workforce amid the pandemic without making a binding commitment to rehire longtime workers when the hotel reopened. Gonzalez’s AB 1074 would help ensure job security for these workers by establishing statewide rehiring and retention protections for California’s hospitality workforce.

Nearly 40% of all California jobs lost during the pandemic have been in the hospitality industry. AB 1074 would save hundreds of thousands of jobs and boost long-term economic recovery by ensuring qualified, laid-off employees in the hospitality industry are offered employment when their jobs become available as businesses reopen. The bill would prevent discriminatory hiring practices designed to cut costs by replacing longtime employees with a less experienced workforce at lower rates of pay.

“California’s hospitality workforce has been decimated by COVID-19, and these employees deserve basic protections which will allow them to return to the jobs and wages they earned before the pandemic as the industry reopens,” Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angles), principal co-author of AB 1074, said. “This bill effectively addresses the concerns Governor Newsom raised to our prior effort.”

A number of local jurisdictions across the state have already passed similar ordinances to ensure hospitality workers have the right to return to their previous jobs, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Long Beach, and Pasadena.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Latina Inequities. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, visit http://asm.ca.gov/gonzalez

UNITE HERE Local 11 Urges President-Elect Biden to Appoint Julie Su as Labor Secretary

Hospitality union throws its weight behind CA’s Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development

Los Angeles – Today, the Co-Presidents of UNITE HERE Local 11 sent a letter to President-Elect Biden, urging him to appoint Julie Su to the position of Secretary of Labor. Su has earned a reputation as a strong, effective, and results-oriented leader over a twenty-five-year career, recovering the largest amount of unpaid wages on behalf of California workers in the state’s history.

Co-President Susan Minato notes, “She will be a Secretary for all of America’s workers—women and men, white workers and people of color, citizens and immigrants alike. She is absolutely the right person for the extraordinary challenges confronting our country today.”

“We know firsthand Julie’s record of accomplishment in California—as a groundbreaking workers’ rights and civil rights lawyer, as Labor Commissioner, and now as California’s Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development,” says Co-President Kurt Petersen. “As Secretary of Labor for California, she has helped to lead the state’s response to the economic crisis posed by COVID-19.”

Ada Briceño says, “Julie Su’s nomination for Secretary of Labor would be recognition of her strong record here in California, and it would also reflect President-Elect Biden’s commitment to diversify the Cabinet with women and people of color who have been ignored by previous administrations..

UNITE HERE Local 11 in Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia: UNITE HERE Local 11 celebrates the victories of Senators-elect Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the US Senate after leading a five-week ground operation with nearly 400 canvassers knocking on 550,000 doors to get out the vote in Georgia.

“I am so proud of UNITE HERE Local 11, whose laid-off members canvassed side-by-side with community partners to help win the US Senate runoff race. Our Arizona team moved to Georgia at Thanksgiving and knocked on 550,000 doors in Dekalb and Gwinnett Counties. We had 150,000 conversations with voters about how significant these races were to their lives. They listened and showed up to vote in record numbers.” said Susan Minato, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

UNITE HERE Local 11 was the largest contingent of the overall UNITE HERE program whose cumulative goal was to knock on 1.5 million doors with more than 1,000 canvassers in Georgia.

“This victory is not just for Georgia, but for all workers of color like myself who, though severely impacted by this pandemic, chose to rise up and fight back together. We will continue to push and make sure that healthcare, relief, jobs and justice are made a priority,” said Marilyn Wilbur, laid off service worker from Arizona State University canvassing in Georgia.

Six-Months Have Passed and There’s Still No Justice for Andres Guardado

 Allies Demand Independent Investigation and Justice on Six-Month Mark of LA Sheriffs’ Murder of Andres Guardado

Posada and Silent Caravan follow Action by Supervisors Exploring Options to Remove Sheriff Villanueva, and Sheriff’s Deputies Refusing to Cooperate in Coroner Investigation

Los Angeles, CA: On the six-month mark of Andres Guardado’s murder at the hands of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) deputies, a coalition of civil rights and worker rights groups held a posada and silent car caravan to continue calls for an independent investigation and justice for the Guardado family.

Nearly a hundred cars participated in the socially distant procession which included costumed figures of angels, Joseph, and Mary, flower wreaths and large posters of Andres Guardado. The posada walkers were met on the corner of Grand and Temple with the lead car adorned by a wreath of flowers.

“My brother was a very bright student and a very good brother and son to my father and mother who did everything he could to provide for our family. I really hope there is justice in his name because what they did to him was unfair and no young man deserves what he got. We can’t bring him back so our pain will always be here but we demand justice and that would at least help our pain” said Jennifer Guardado, sister of Andres Guardado.

On June 18, while working as a security guard in Gardena, LASD deputies shot Guardado five times in the back, as reported by two independent autopsies. The eighteen-year-old had gotten the job to help provide for his family after his father, a hotel worker and UNITE HERE Local 11 member, was laid off due to COVID-19.

“When the deputies shot Andres they tore a hole in all of our flesh. When the deputies took Andres’s life, they stole a piece of all of our souls. When the Sheriff blocks an independent investigation of Andres’s killing, he violates all of our rights.” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “Like others killed at the hands of law enforcement, Andres Guardado was not just a statistic. His family & our community deserve answers, not obstruction.”

LASD officials have thus far refused to cooperate with an independent investigation, stonewalling the Inspector General.  Recently, a Sheriff’s deputy who shot Guardado and two other LASD detectives involved have refused to testify in the coroner’s inquest into Guardado’s killing, the first of its kind in 30 years, stating they will invoke the Fifth Amendment. In November, the  Board of Supervisors directed County Counsel to explore ways to impeach and remove the sheriff.

The coalition has called for Villanueva’s immediate resignation. In response, the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission unanimously passed a “vote of no confidence” resolution also urging Villanueva’s resignation.

Mourning Coworker’s Death, Employees Demand HMS Host “Pay Up” for Healthcare

LAX’s largest food service company faces a million-dollar bill for worker health insurance

Los Angeles: Fluttering a massive banner reading “HMS Host Pay Up” down a parking structure across from Terminal 4 yesterday, LAX airport workers said the airport food service giant has failed to make the financial contributions to extend health care coverage for its laid-off employees.

“We’ve carried this company on our backs for years to make them successful,” said Carlos Castillo, a 21-year bartender for HMS Host at LAX who, like most of his coworkers, has been laid off since March.

While Mr. Valencia had healthcare coverage during the pandemic and at the time of his death, former coworkers say the loss underscores the importance of ensuring that laid-off HMS employees and their families have healthcare coverage throughout the duration of the pandemic.

Last month, a health benefit fund covering HMS Host employees in Los Angeles informed the company that it is delinquent in paying more than one million dollars in benefit contributions required under a City rent relief program for airport concessionaires.

“HMS Host needs to do what other airport companies have done and pay what they owe for their laid-off workers’ healthcare,” said Robin Rodriguez, organizing director at UNITE HERE Local 11. “It’s reprehensible for HMS Host to contribute to workers’ uncertainty during this time. The company has access to billions while their laid-off workers are struggling to stay healthy and housed.”

In October, HMS Host workers filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging it failed to pay wages they are owed under the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, despite numerous complaints from employees. The still-pending lawsuit also alleges that HMS Host also failed to comply with California labor laws requiring employers to pay final wages to terminated employees immediately.

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in North America and at LAX. Its parent company, Autogrill (BIT: AGL), is owned by a family of Italian multi-billionaires whose holding corporation had assets valued at $13.8B last year.

HMS Host workers at LAX are over 90% people of color (including over 20% Black) and live in the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of its LAX workforce remains laid off.

Lawsuit Forces Short-Term Rental Platform Out of L.A. Market

Lawsuit Forces Short-Term Rental Platform Out of L.A. Market

Citing lax public enforcement, activists vow more action to uphold city’s Home Sharing Ordinance

Los Angeles, CA: A short-term rental host and platform announced last week that it will stop offering short-term rentals in the City of Los Angeles.  The announcement comes just days after residents filed the first lawsuit seeking to enforce the Los Angeles Home Sharing Ordinance.

“Synergy’s capitulation is a huge victory for laid-off hospitality workers, housing advocates, and neighborhood activists working to ensure Los Angeles enforces its existing regulations on short-term rentals,” said Randy Renick, partner at Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai.   “It is the City Council’s responsibility to enforce the law, but we won’t let their failure keep us from taking action to protect our clients.”

Laid off hospitality workers filed their lawsuit against Synergy Global Housing LLC on December 1 alleging that the company is violating the city’s Home Sharing Ordinance that has been in effect since July 2019. Synergy is a member of CapitaLand, a real estate company headquartered and publicly traded in Singapore.

Los Angeles passed the Home-Sharing Ordinance to address an extreme shortage of affordable housing and the negative effects short-term rentals on the long-term housing market. The Ordinance strictly limits home sharing to primary residences and requires “hosts” of short-term rentals to register for a permit. It also prohibits “host platforms” from processing booking transactions for listings without a valid City Home Sharing registration number.

Better Neighbors LA released a review last week showing that the city’s poor enforcement of the Ordinance has left the city inundated with illegal short-term rentals. Despite the lack of enforcement, just last month the Los Angeles Planning Committee, led by Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, voted 3–1 to move to the full council a massive loophole in the existing Home Sharing Ordinance. The proposed Vacation Rental Ordinance would allow nearly 15,000 additional short-term, Airbnb-type rental units in the city.

Community groups like Better Neighbors LA and UNITE HERE Local 11, who expect the Vacation Rental Ordinance to reach the full council for a vote in January, have been urging against the Vacation Rental Ordinance as L.A. renters face a possible eviction crisis because of the economic impact of COVID-19.