PRESS INQUIRIES

For Press Inquiries:
Maria Hernandez, Communications
(623) 340-8047 (mobile)
[email protected]

For Arizona Press Inquiries:
Rachele Smith, Communications
(623) 670-9889 (mobile)
[email protected]

Some of the following press releases have been shortened and edited to avoid redundancy.

High resolution photos are available upon request.

UNITE HERE Local 11 Leads Fight As West Hollywood City Council Approves Highest Minimum Wage in the Country

BREAKING NEWS: 11/04/2021

West Hollywood: Just past midnight, the West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to establish a citywide minimum wage of $17.64, including 96 hours of paid sick leave and other benefits. While this measure aligns West Hollywood hotel workers with those in Santa Monica and Los Angeles who have earned $17.64 since July of this year, the wage increase for workers in all other industries is unprecedented.

“Our union is proud to have led the fight to pass a living wage in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and now West Hollywood. Workers across all industries, especially in hotels who have been hardest hit by the pandemic deserve a living wage. Tonight’s council vote is proof of the bold leadership and action needed to ensure workers recover from the effects of this pandemic,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

This victory is a culmination of an effort that UNITE HERE Local 11, Councilmember Horvath and then Councilmember Heilman started back in 2016 to raise the citywide minimum wage to $15, which failed on a 2-3 vote.

“Having a living wage will not only help me and my co-workers, but every single worker in the city of West Hollywood. I know that with the current wages, we cannot live in the city we’ve helped build,” said Norma Hernandez, a housekeeper at the Mondrian Hotel. “Thank you for passing this living wage and ensuring that workers like me can be a part of this city’s recovery.”

This is the second time since July, the West Hollywood City Council has voted to stand with workers hit hardest by the pandemic. Following efforts by UNITE HERE Local 11 and after hearing from hotel workers across the city, the council approved one of the most progressive hotel worker protection laws in the country ensuring fair compensation for heavy workloads, right of recall, training, and panic buttons for all hotel workers

UNITE HERE Local 11 Members Launch Campaign for More Fair 2028 Olympic Games 

Click here to read the report

Hospitality workers demand Los Angeles leaders include them in the decision-making process

Los Angeles: Today, UNITE HERE Local 11 released a report outlining its vision for what the 2028 Olympic Games could look like for workers and residents of Los Angeles as the city council is set to vote in the coming weeks on a games agreement.

Hospitality workers hold signs reading "Good jobs now!!" and "Good housing now!!" outside Los Angeles City Hall

The city plans to enter into the Olympic Games Agreement with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and LA28, the private nonprofit responsible for the 2028 Games, by November 1. Despite multiple public records requests by UNITE HERE Local 11, no details of what is actually in the agreement have been made public.

The 32,000 members of UNITE HERE Local 11 assert that the professional tourism workers who will make these events successful must be among those who benefit from these decisions. The Olympics Games must succeed in three key areas:

Good hospitality jobs: For the Olympics to benefit our communities, we need to ensure that the workers whose labor will make the Games possible have good, family-sustaining jobs.

“The stadiums and event centers that host the Olympic athletes and guests are our stadiums, and they need to provide people with good jobs that give us a fighting chance for a better life,” said Ana Diaz, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 and food service worker at Banc of California Stadium.

Hiring and retention of Black workers: There must be a commitment to ensuring that more Black workers—who have historically been excluded from the hospitality industry and its best positions—are hired and retained.

“The Olympics can make it harder for African Americans in the hospitality industry, or it can be an opportunity to protect existing Black workers’ jobs and create a pipeline for good jobs for Black workers in Los Angeles,” said Chris Smith, a bartender at SoFi Stadium and the Anaheim Convention Center.

End the housing crisis: With Los Angeles facing an unprecedented housing crisis, the Olympics can exacerbate this problem, by converting housing into short-term rentals (STRs) through its official partnership with Airbnb, or it can protect existing renters and meaningfully contribute to affordable housing production.

“The longer I’ve lived in LA, the more expensive it has become. I lived on the West Side for many years but because of how expensive rent is, my daughter and I have had to move further and further away from LAX. Now I live in Compton in a converted garage with no kitchen. I spend almost three hours every day getting to and from work because I rely on public transportation. People like me who are the backbone of the airport deserve to be able to afford to live near where we work,” said Laura Banuet, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 and food service worker at LAX since 2016.

Similar agreements for past Olympics have contained detailed descriptions of each entity’s obligations, including police budgets and the rights of corporate sponsors. As outlined in Local 11’s report, the Olympics in London, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo caused gentrification and further displaced thousands of residents from their homes to make way for the Games.

“The decision making must not only be transparent, but we need to be at the table. The Olympic Games are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our industry and our city. If the Olympics are to benefit our communities, the workers whose labor will make the Games possible must have family-sustaining jobs,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11.

###

Note to editors: high-resolution images and b-roll available

LAX Workers Protest Airport Expansion, Urge Board to Reject Environmental Report

Those who live near and work at the airport say development must better address job quality, healthcare, pollution, and displacement

LAX workers protest airport expansion outside LAWA board Oct 7, 2021

LOS ANGELES–Dozens of LAX airport workers from in-terminal concessions and retail, guest services, and airline catering demonstrated against airport expansion Thursday as the Board of Airport Commissioners voted to certify an environmental report that moves the development process forward.

Los Angeles World Airports and the Los Angeles City Council are seeking to rapidly expand LAX amid projected ongoing growth in air traffic and infrastructure needed to host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

But thousands of workers throughout the airport—members of UNITE HERE Local 11 working in food service and retail positions and of SEIU-USWW working in janitorial and passenger services—point to issues that are still not addressed.

LAX workers protest airport expansion outside LAWA board Oct 7, 2021

“Even though I work at LAX, I will fight this airport expansion if it’s just going to get us more of the same,” said Rosio Narez, a member of UNITE HERE Local 11 who lives in Inglewood. “Almost everyone in my family has asthma, and I was hospitalized for my asthma as a kid. Increased air traffic will increase air pollution and make families like mine more vulnerable to respiratory diseases. My entire family got COVID, and the communities around the airport have been some of the hardest-hit. We can’t ignore these issues.”

“I oppose this expansion because the airport has not done enough to ensure that we— the people who work at LAX—can get by,” said Laura Banuett, who has worked as a fast food attendant at the airport since 2016. “Rent is so expensive. I’ve had to move further and further away and now live in Compton, raising my daughter on my own while living in a converted garage with no bathroom and no kitchen. I spend almost three hours on public transportation every day to get to and from work. It can’t keep going on like this.”

“Southern California hospitality and service workers are moving from a devastating fight to stay healthy and housed during the pandemic to preparing for the world’s largest tourism events,” said Robin Rodriguez, organizing director at UNITE HERE Local 11. “City leaders face a series of votes that will affect the everyday lives of these families for decades. We want their decisions—about job quality, access to affordable healthcare, pollution, and noise—to demonstrate the value of our work as ‘essential’ in a time of economic growth as well as in a time of crisis.”

LAX workers protest airport expansion outside LAWA board Oct 7, 2021
The LAX Airfield and Terminal Modernization is a massive project to construct Concourse 0 and Terminal 9, add more than two dozen gates, and reconfigure runways and taxiways, among other changes.

Data from LAWA demonstrates that 78% of domestic passenger traffic recovered in July 2021 compared to July 2019—the strongest performance since the pandemic began.

LA City Councilmembers Unveil Plan to Protect Housing by Enforcing Home-Sharing Ordinance

Six councilmembers commit to vote NO on vacation rental loophole

 

Los Angeles, CA:  In a show of unity and commitment, five Los Angeles city councilmembers Bob Blumenfield, Mike Bonin, Paul Koretz, Nithya Raman, and Monica Rodriguez held a press conference to unveil steps to protect housing for thousands of Angelenos by stronger enforcement of the city’s Home-sharing ordinance.

In an effort to further enforce the city’s strong home-sharing ordinance, Councilmembers Blumenfield,  Koretz, and Raman, all filed separate motions with City Planning and Land Use Management recently.

“The City’s home sharing program has pulled thousands of much-needed housing units off the market, adding to our already disastrous homeless problem and has been beset by non-compliance, criminal activity and the destruction of once quiet single-family neighborhoods” said Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Koretz of the Fifth District.  “If we’re going to take home sharing and its many challenges seriously, we need to provide the Planning Department with the resources necessary to effectively enforce the ordinance, and this needs to be done before we start digging a deeper hole with a vacation rentals program. We currently require primary residency for a reason. What possible excuse is there for this change?”

Elected officials pledged to vote “NO” on a Vacation Rental Loophole currently being considered, warning that the passage of it would take 14,000 homes off the market and convert them into short-term rental units and profoundly complicate the enforcement of short-term rental regulations in place. It would also create dire consequences for LA’s housing market with poor communities of color being the most affected. The loophole is expected to come to a vote in the coming weeks.

“If the City is struggling to enforce the home-sharing ordinance we already have on the books, what makes us think we’re ready to put in place a new vacation rental ordinance that, even when properly enforced, would allow almost 15,000 additional units to be taken off the rental market and turned into Airbnbs,” said Councilmember Raman. “I pledge to vote NO on the Vacation Rental Loophole currently being considered.”

“The adopted short term rental ordinance was explicitly written to limit participation to primary residences in order to protect our critical housing stock. We cannot reopen that loophole in the midst of a housing crisis. Housing needs to be protected for those who live and work in Los Angeles,” said Councilwoman Rodriguez

The City estimated from 2017 that between 6,000 and 10,000 housing units had been removed from the traditional rental market and converted by their owners to short-term rentals.

“We need to protect our housing stock and ensure that we’re maximizing the amount of units available for Angelenos; it’s imperative that we don’t allow ‘vacation rentals’ to become a loophole that decimates the protections in the short term rental legalization policy we adopted a few short years ago.” said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. “Right now, there are thousands of illegal short-term rentals available on various platforms throughout the city. We must strengthen enforcement and reject adding loopholes that will lead to more expensive housing.”

Councilmember Bonin was one of the main sponsors of the original home-sharing ordinance passed in 2018 to address an extreme shortage of affordable housing and the negative effects of short-term rentals on long-term housing markets. 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 bookings for listings without a valid City Home-Sharing registration number.

“We need to put a stake in the heart of this harmful vacation rental proposal, which would take thousands of units off the rental market in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin. “The proposed vacation rental ordinance would shred any hope of enforcing existing short-term rental rules and would do real harm.”

The event came as housing advocates, working Angelinos and UNITE HERE Local 11 increased their calls for stricter enforcement of the HSO and demand that council reject the proposed VRO.

“When COVID hit I lost my job and my way of life. As a single mother I could not afford to pay the rent of a one-bedroom apartment and was forced to move farther and farther away from my job. I currently live in a small garage where I am barely getting by and live-in fear of becoming homeless every day,” said Clara Meza, member of UNITE HERE Local 11 who has worked as a food prep cook at Sky Chef’s for 36 years.

Although unable to attend in person, Councilmember De Leon said in a statement, “The fact that an eviction moratorium is the only thing preventing many Angelenos from living on the street is a clarion call for all of us to focus on increasing the number of permanently available units at any given time. In a moment like this, anything that detracts from that, like the vacation rental ordinance, should be off the table,” said Councilmember De Leon.

UNITE HERE Local 11 Statement on Recall Election Results

UNITE HERE Local 11 represents 32,000 workers in hotels, airports, restaurants, universities and stadiums across Southern California and Arizona. Our members called voters and knocked on their doors to inspire our community to vote NO on the anti-union, anti-woman, and anti-worker recall. These are the same housekeepers, dishwashers, and cooks who led the fight to turn Arizona and Georgia blue in 2020. Our members are committed to upholding our democracy and look forward to continuing to advocate for policies that will uplift all workers alongside Governor Newsom.  Si se puede!

 

UNITE HERE Local 11
Ada Briceño, co-president
Susan Minato, co-president
Kurt Petersen, co-president

LA City Attorney Candidates Reject Proposed Vacation Rental Ordinance, Challenge City to Enforce Existing Home Sharing Ordinance 

Amid housing crisis, LA City Council expected to vote on a loophole that would take 14,000 homes off the market and convert them into short-term rental units 

Los Angeles,  CA:  In an extraordinary show of unity around the issue of short-term rental regulation, most of the Los Angeles City Attorney candidates joined UNITE HERE Local 11, Better Neighbors Los Angeles, and Strategic Action for a Just Economy to call on the city to reject a proposed loophole – the Vacation Rental Ordinance – that would convert as many as 14,000 homes into short term rentals amid a growing housing crisis and make enforcement of the current Home Sharing Ordinance much more difficult.

 

“The existing Home Sharing Ordinance is not being enforced consistently, and the Vacation Rental Ordinance would exacerbate the problem. Loosening the rules to allow people to turn their second homes into de-facto hotels hurts our city’s hard working hotel workers who have spent years winning union health benefits, pensions and wages they deserve,” said Teddy Kapur, City Attorney candidate.

The City Attorney candidates warned that if the Vacation Rental loophole were to pass, it would profoundly complicate the already slow enforcement of short-term rental regulations that the current LA City Attorney and Planning staff have struggled to implement.  The loophole would create dire consequences for LA’s housing market with poor communities of color being the most affected. In a letter, Better Neighbors says the City estimates that between 6,000 to 10,000 housing units have been removed from the traditional rental market and converted by their owners to short-term rentals.  The loophole would remove thousands more and make enforcement of the existing Ordinance nearly impossible.

“The illegal conversion of rent-stabilized and affordable housing units into short-term rentals must stop.  Increased enforcement of the City’s Home Sharing Ordinance is the fastest way, and the least expensive way, to protect our affordable housing stock, to protect our most vulnerable renters from being pushed into homelessness, and to prevent harm to neighborhoods by commercial operators.  This proposed Vacation Rental Ordinance, unfortunately, will harm our ability to enforce the restrictions written into the City’s Home Sharing Ordinance because it will interfere with the two best enforcement tools we have — the requirement that short-term rentals must be a primary residence, and the prohibition of rent-stabilized units being listed as short-term rentals.  The Vacation Rental Ordinance could end up having the unintended result of actually accelerating our low-income and affordable housing crisis,” said Kevin James, who is running for LA City Attorney.

Los Angeles passed the Home Sharing Ordinance in 2018 to address an extreme shortage of affordable housing and the negative effects of short-term rentals on long-term housing markets. 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 bookings for listings without a valid City Home Sharing registration number.

“Accountability starts and ends with enforceability,” said Hydee Feldstein Soto, a candidate for Los Angeles City Attorney.  “The pending vacation and RSO ordinances make housing supply and especially rent stabilized units vulnerable to those who would skirt the law on short term rentals since enforcement becomes impractical if not impossible.”

The Vacation Rentals ordinance would blur the strongest enforcement line in the Home Sharing Ordinance – the primary residence requirement. If passed, it would allow commercial hosts to remove a second home from the housing market and convert it to a short-term rental.  The loophole would so complicate the investigation process as to make it nearly impossible for the City to determine if a short-term rental is listed illegally.  Because it is the responsibility of the Los Angeles City Attorney to enforce the City’s laws, these enforcement policy questions are an important element of the 2022 LA City Attorney election campaign.

“The Los Angeles City Attorney’s unwillingness to enforce the protections outlined in the Home Sharing Ordinance has left countless Angelenos vulnerable to displacement and homelessness. To make matters worse, the City’s proposed Vacation Rental Ordinance will only complicate regulating the short-term rental industry and further burden impacted communities. Affordable, accessible housing is a human right, and the City needs to focus on strengthening 一 not weakening 一 renter protection laws,” said Faisal Gill, LA City Attorney candidate.

UNITE HERE Hospitality Workers Participate in Civil Disobedience at the U.S. Capitol to Combat Voter Suppression Laws with the Poor People’s Campaign

“This is about working people fighting to defend true democracy where all voices are heard.”

On August 2, days before the 56th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, UNITE HERE joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival national rally and march to combat voter suppression laws. More than 85 UNITE HERE members joined hundreds of allies in a march from Union Plaza to the U.S. Capitol where they participated in a nonviolent act of civil disobedience. Just as the 1960s Freedom Rides escalated to nonviolent direct action, UNITE HERE built upon the June 2021 Freedom Ride for Voting Rights by returning to Washington, D.C.

Since the 2020 elections, hundreds of anti-voter bills have been introduced in states across the country. Hospitality workers are fighting back to demand that Congress stand up for democracy and end the filibuster, pass all provisions of the For the People Act, fully restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and offer permanent protections, dignity, and respect for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.

“Poor people and workers have always had to fight for our rights on and off the job,” said D. Taylor, UNITE HERE International Union President. “This is about working people fighting to defend true democracy where all voices are heard. We are standing on the shoulders of civil rights and labor leaders who sacrificed their lives so we could be here today.”

From the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to this summer’s mobilizations, the civil rights and labor movements have been linked historically in our collective struggle for better pay and equal rights for people of color. Union jobs are crucial to move working people out of poverty and have our communities thrive, not just survive.

Despite facing over 98% layoff rates at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNITE HERE members knocked on 3 million doors in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Then, laid-off hospitality workers joined the team that turned Georgia blue to help deliver come-from-behind wins and Take Back the Senate in the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoff.

“The right to vote is directly rooted in our fight for racial justice. As a Black woman and union member I know the struggle to demand dignity and respect for myself and my community, said Tembi Hove, Banquet Server at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta and canvasser during the Georgia Senate runoff elections. “Despite being laid off during COVID-19, I canvassed to get out the vote. I won’t allow my rights to get stripped away. This is our moment to unite against unjust laws that are putting a direct threat on our lives and livelihoods.”

UNITE HERE is taking action with the Poor People’s Campaign because workers will be treated as disposable unless we have real power. Housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, and food service workers from across the country are fighting back because we are the working people, women, people of color, and immigrants who will be most impacted by voter suppression laws.

UNITE HERE Local 11 Endorses Hugo Soto-Martinez for Los Angeles City Council District 13

Los Angeles, CA: Today, on behalf of UNITE HERE Local 11 members who live and work in Los Angeles City Council District 13, the union has announced its enthusiastic endorsement of long-time leader Hugo Soto-Martinez for Los Angeles City Council.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hugo is a U.C. Irvine graduate who has committed his life to fighting for California families. He is an experienced, compassionate, and effective leader who knows how to get things done for the residents of CD 13.

As a server at the L.A. Grand Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, Hugo led a successful union organizing drive. Since then, Hugo has dedicated the past 15 years to standing up for his colleagues and members: the room attendants, cooks, and bartenders who have built and sustain the vital tourism industry in Los Angeles. Hugo’s organizing victories in the workplace have improved the lives of thousands of Angelenos.

As a member of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council, Hugo worked to reduce displacement, support the development of affordable housing, and help address our city’s homelessness crisis. As a leader of UNITE HERE Local 11, Hugo has played an instrumental role in efforts to mitigate the effects of illegal short-term rentals on the housing market.

Hugo has worked with leaders of the Democratic Party of California to advance the rights of everyday people across the state. Hugo has organized for immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for our country’s undocumented people and has fought to resist federal policy that tears immigrant families apart. He has also led legislative campaigns to raise wages and protect workers from unsafe conditions.

Hugo has also worked with community groups across Southern California to increase transparency and accountability for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He has been a leader of the movement seeking justice for Andres Guardado, the young man shot five times in the back by the Department in 2020.

On the City Council, Hugo will continue his work and fight to ensure that CD 13 is a vibrant community where everyone—regardless of background or income—can participate in the public decisions that affect their lives. “We need someone to represent this district that represents our values and also has Hugo’s experience bringing people together to make change,” said Liliana Hernandez, a seven-year member of UNITE HERE Local 11. “As a hospitality worker, mom, and resident of District 13, I am excited that Hugo is running to represent me.”