District Attorney George Gascon Announces Investigation into Hotels’ Alleged Exploitation of Unhoused Refugees, says UNITE HERE Local 11

Santa Monica –  Today, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced he will launch an investigation concerning hotels’ alleged exploitation of unhoused refugees during recent hotel strikes. 

District Attorney George Gascón emphatically declared, “We take these egregious allegations with the utmost seriousness. The mistreatment of vulnerable workers and their exploitation will not be tolerated. We will conduct an exhaustive investigation, working closely with UNITE HERE Local 11 and other stakeholders to ensure strict compliance with labor laws and protect the rights and dignity of all workers.”

Many of the agency’s workers are refugees, hailing from countries as far away as Venezuela, and some are temporarily staying at the Union Rescue Mission, a shelter on Skid Row.

The refugees include workers who entered the country to seek asylum in Texas and were part of Texas Governor Abbott’s shameful publicity stunt of bussing workers to other states.

The hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE Local 11 asked DA Gascón to launch an investigation regarding potential violations by hotels and their subcontractors of wage and child labor laws. In one instance, a minor is alleged to have missed school in order to work at a hotel. Some of the refugees reported receiving paychecks with little to no documentation regarding hours worked.

The union and immigrant rights groups are calling on the region’s hotels and the government to ensure that the unhoused refugees have jobs where their rights are respected as well as safe and dignified housing.

Refugee worker from Venezuela, Sebastian stated, “I entered a situation where I didn’t even know which agency was hiring me, how much I was going to earn, how many hours I was going to work, much less my rights as a worker.”

UNITE HERE Local 11 Co-President Ada Briceño denounced the hotels’ actions. “The hypocrisy of the employers like Le Meridien Delfina is staggering,” Briceño said, “Thank you to District Attorney Gascón’s leadership on this issue. We will not stand by while that happens, our union is committed to continue fighting for all workers.”

State Senator Maria Elena Durazo also stated, “{California} is better than this, and we will continue to stand with these workers in Santa Monica and anywhere else they may face these awful conditions.”

“I’m outraged that Santa Monica hotels have resorted to exploiting the desperation of recent immigrants while their current employees fight for living wages and safe working conditions. It is indefensible that hotels would resort to employing vulnerable, newly-arrived refugees during an ongoing labor dispute with their employees, the vast majority of whom are immigrants themselves,” said Angelica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA.

This as next week thousands of tourists, film lovers, and film industry workers will pour into Santa Monica the American Film Market next week, their stays and visits to AFM events in several Santa Monica hotels may be worked by vulnerable, unhoused, and unprotected immigrants.