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.

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.

Workers of LAX Giant HMS Host Call on Company to “Pay Up”

Concessionaire faces wage class action and a million-dollar bill for worker health insurance, while hundreds of airport workers remain laid off

Los Angeles, CA: Sixty laid off LAX workers took to their cars Thursday to caravan through the airport with horns, lights, and signs that say “HMS Host Pay Up.” The protest came ahead of a move by the airport authority Board of Airport Commission to grant the company a valuable lease extension. HMS Host has been the subject of controversy and criticism from its own employees in recent months.

Workers picket at LAX wearing signs that say, "HMS Host: Pay Up!"

“During the pandemic, HMS Host has repeatedly failed to live up to its most basic obligations towards its workers. When its workers needed them most, HMS Host turned its back,” said UNITE HERE Local 11 Director Robin Rodriguez.

This October, 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 Host also failed to comply with California labor laws requiring employers to pay final wages to terminated employees immediately.

Following worker complaints, the Los Angeles City Council voted down a financial package for HMS Host estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars in lease extension-related revenue and rent relief.

Workers are now drawing attention to HMS Host’s alleged failure to make healthcare contributions to help maintain health care coverage for its laid-off workers. A health benefit fund covering its employees has informed HMS Host that it is delinquent in paying more than a million dollars in benefit contributions required under a City rent relief program for airport concessionaires.

“My family and I have had to make many sacrifices during this pandemic to make ends meet and it scares me to think I could lose my healthcare if HMS Host does not pay up what it should,” said Carlos Castillo, a bartender at HMS Host at LAX for 21 years.

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

TAKE BACK 2020

UNITE HERE knocked on doors of 3 million voters to win AZ, NV, and PA for Joe Biden

UNITE HERE organized the largest union door-to-door canvass operation in the U.S.

UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers’ union, organized the country’s largest union-door-to-door canvassing operation. Today, the union announced that those efforts in Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania point to a clear path to victory for Joe Biden.

UNITE HERE has been preparing for the 2020 election since 2016, identifying several counties for targeted door-to-door outreach. Among them were cities now critical to the outcome of the current race: Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In those key areas, UNITE HERE canvassers got out on the doors first, starting a ground game as early as July in Nevada and Arizona to turn out voters who did not cast ballots in 2016. In Philadelphia, the operation began October 1 and grew dramatically from 50 to 500 canvassers over five short weeks.

As part of UNITE HERE’s Take Back 2020 campaign, 1,700 canvassers—many of them Black and Latinx union members whose jobs and families were hit hard by COVID-19—knocked on the doors of three million Americans in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida to encourage them to vote. These efforts helped drive the unprecedented turnout of this presidential election and will make the critical difference that wins the presidency for Joe Biden.

“I’m incredibly proud of UNITE HERE and our members,” said UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor, “It was clear that we needed to take back our country, and even more clear how to do it: through face-to-face conversations and the type of in-person organizing that our union does best. With Take Back 2020, we built a program that made a critical difference in Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, and we thank the other labor unions, progressive allies, and individual donors that worked with us to accomplish that goal.”

By the Numbers

3 million doors were knocked by UNITE HERE canvassers in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida
462,135 infrequent voters pledged to vote for Biden/Harris via a conversation with a UNITE HERE canvasser
120,775 of voters spoken to by a UNITE HERE canvasser had not voted in in 2016 in their current state
Over two-thirds of our conversations were with voters of color
10 million phone numbers were dialed by UNITE HERE phone bankers

ARIZONA

Susan Minato, Co-President, UNITE HERE Local 11
“UNITE HERE Local 11 has been running political campaigns in Arizona since 2007. During this pandemic, this cycle has been no exception. We knocked on 800,000 doors, made 2.5 million calls, and talked to 250,000 Arizonans. More important than any demographic changes, it is the face-to-face conversations with voters that has made Arizona turn blue in 2020.”

NEVADA

Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer, UNITE HERE’s Culinary Union:
“The Culinary Union is proud to have mobilized tens of thousands of hospitality workers and voters to elect representatives who will fight for our families. Because of the efforts of the largest political team comprised of 500 UNITE HERE and Culinary Union canvassers on the ground statewide who knocked on 500,000 doors. The unprecedented turnout in Nevada, which was led by those most directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a mandate on Donald Trump’s failed leadership. Ever since he assumed the office, Trump has been a daily threat to the livelihoods of workers and our families. We are taking back our country and delivering Nevada for political candidates who will represent working families and fight for our issues. Nevadans need comprehensive COVID-19 relief now, a fair economy that centers workers, racial justice that ensures Black Lives Matter, and a democracy that includes all of us – whether we are Black or white, Native or new immigrant, Latinx or Asian.”

PHILADELPHIA

Nicole Hunt, President, UNITE HERE Local 634
“This is what we do as a union—we organize. The members I work with are primarily Black and Brown leaders who need to see a change in this country. They had lost hope in the system so they did not vote last election and they may not have this year either. But we went to them to help them find their voice, to let them know their vote matters. We’re proud of the work we have done, and we are proud to have taken our country back.”

Rosslyn Wuchinich, President, UNITE HERE Local 274
“We believe we made the difference in Pennsylvania by focusing our efforts in the disenfranchised Black and Brown communities where most of our members live. Four years ago, when a hotel owner won the State of Pennsylvania and the White House, we pledged to do whatever was needed to take back our country. And despite a pandemic that has devastated our industries and our communities, we did just that. That is a testament to how our union brings together those from all walks of life to harness our collective power and win for all working people.”

“The key takeaway from this election is that working people were the saviors of democracy – workers did the essential door-to-door canvassing and everyday working voters turned out; with their votes comes a mandate for change to help working and low-wealth people,” said UNITE HERE Secretary-Treasurer and acting Political Campaigns Director Gwen Mills, “We expect the administration to provide economic relief for workers left jobless by COVID-19 and to support workers to join unions.  Protecting access to quality health care, implementing structural change for racial equity and immigration reform, and insuring workers are at the center of the economic transition necessary for climate change are the key issues.  UNITE HERE is proud to have made a critical difference in this election so that agenda can move forward.”

Arizona’s Largest Political Field Operation

Election Day will Mark 800,000 door knocks for Arizona’s Largest Political Field Operation

300 canvassers operating out of five offices across greater Phoenix focused on winning Arizona for Biden/Harris, Mark Kelly for Senate, and pro-working-family candidates in state and local races

Phoenix, Arizona: In an Election Day push to get out the vote in Arizona, more than 300 canvassers with UNITE HERE Local 11 will launch their final door-to-door field canvass to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and Mark Kelly. These efforts make the campaign the largest on-the-ground field operation in Arizona for the Biden/Harris presidential ticket and U.S Senate candidate Mark Kelly, as well as races to flip the state legislature in support of pro-worker candidates and to win the state-wide education funding measure Proposition 208.

UNITE HERE Local 11 and CASE Action project that their canvass will have yielded 800,000 door knocks and resulted in 200,000 in-person conversations with voters. They have also made over 2.5 million phone calls and talked to more than 60,000 voters on the phone. Key canvassers and campaign directors will be monitoring nation-wide election results at the campaign headquarters and will be available for in-person interviews.

Local 11 launched its canvass in July with community organizing partner CASE Action and has been knocking on 20,000 doors a day for Biden and Kelly, as well as state and local candidates and issues. UNITE HERE Local 11 was the first organization in the country to develop COVID-19 safety protocols that would enable political canvassers to safely return to the field. Since then, other campaigns across the country have looked to the union’s efforts and begun to use similar safety models.

UNITE HERE affiliates in the key swing states of Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Florida are also running the largest political field operations in their respective states. The union is committed to seeing the election process through and ensuring that every vote is counted.

LA City Council Votes NO on Millions in Relief to Airport Concessions Giant

Workers Applaud LA City Council Vote on Relief for Billionaire HMS Host

Los Angeles, CA: Today, the Los Angeles City Council stood with workers and unanimously voted down a relief and lease extension package for airport concessions giant HMS Host. The deal was estimated to be worth tens of millions in lease extension-related revenue and rent relief for HMS Host.

HMS Host workers install themselves outside Los Angeles City Hall

“I stand with hard-working Angelenos, and not multinational corporations that try to exploit them and steal their wages. I am happy to support struggling businesses at LAX that treat their workers properly, but refuse to offer that assistance to a company that has violated the living wage ordinance meant to protect LAX workers. I am proud that the City Council stands united in this effort,” said District 11 Councilmember Mike Bonin.

HMS Host at LAX worker Donisa Robinson shares her experience in a poster outside LA City Hall“I want to thank the Los Angeles City Council for standing with me and my coworkers. This pandemic has been devastating for many of us and to be seen and heard by our elected officials means so much to us,” said Donisa Robinson, a laid-off Sushi Chef at HMS Host.

After weeks of hearing from laid off airport workers about the devastating effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workers and their families, the LA City Council once again did the right thing and stood by workers.

As detailed in a report released earlier this week by UNITE HERE Local 11, HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in the United States. It is wholly owned by Italian corporation Autogrill, which increased its cash balance by 60% in the first six months of 2020. Its laid off workers say they are now struggling to survive, provide for their families, stay safe, and keep their housing.

“Thank you to the leadership of Councilmember Mike Bonin, Nury Martinez and the entire council for standing with laid off LAX workers today and not giving a massive and undeserved handout to HMS Host. We need more elected leaders willing to stand up to big corporations and the hospitality industry who since day one have been doing nothing but taking advantage of the pandemic to hurt workers instead of help them,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

Last week, HMS Host workers filed a class action lawsuit alleging the company failed to pay workers the minimum living wages for airport workers required by Los Angeles’s Living Wage Ordinance. The suit also alleges that HMS Host failed to pay workers their vacation time when it carried out a mass layoff in March and April 2020. California law requires employers pay employees all earned wages and accrued vacation time immediately upon layoff.

Debbie Lewis, HMS Host worker and lawsuit plaintiff

LAX’s Largest Concessionaire HMS Host Faces Class Action Wage Lawsuit

Press Contact: Maria Hernandez | 623-340-8047 | [email protected]

Contact for Lawsuit: Lauren Teukolsky | 626-522-8982 x 101 | [email protected]

Copy of complaint here

Los Angeles, CA. Laid off airport workers announced a class action lawsuit on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall Thursday alleging that corporate giant HMS Host failed to pay wages owed its workers under the City’s Living Wage Ordinance and California law.

“Unemployed workers needed their earned wages in the middle of a global pandemic to pay for rent, groceries, medical bills and the other necessities of life. If our claims are successful, we estimate that Host could owe several millions of dollars in back wages and penalties. We hope that justice will prevail and these workers will be made whole,” said Lauren Teukolsky, an attorney representing the plaintiffs.

Lawyers and plaintiffs confer over class action lawsuit against HMS Host

The suit alleges that HMS Host has failed to pay the plaintiffs Debra Lewis, Marlene Mendoza, and Lotus Perez-Silva and other workers the minimum living wages for airport workers required by the Living Wage Ordinance and that the company failed to rectify the problem even in the face of multiple complaints from employees. The suit also alleges that HMS Host failed to pay workers their vacation time when it carried out a mass layoff in March and April 2020. California law requires employers pay employees all wages and accrued vacation time immediately upon layoff.

“Fifty cents per hour may not sound like a lot. Unused vacation pay may not sound like a lot. But to all of us who were laid off back in March, it means food, it means gas, it means shelter. That money can mean the difference between hope and hopelessness,” said Debra Lewis, a plaintiff in the case and HMS Host worker at LAX for 34 years. “I am proud to be standing up for myself and my coworkers and have filed this lawsuit to ensure we are paid everything we are owed under the law.”

Debbie Lewis, HMS Host worker and lawsuit plaintiff

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in North America and at LAX. Its parent company, Autogrill, is owned by a family of Italian multi-billionaires whose holding corporation had assets valued at $13.8 billion last year and increased its cash balance by an estimated 60% in the first six months of this year.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have watched in horror as huge, wealthy companies have tried to cash in on programs meant to help small businesses and working families. And now HMS Host wants the same kind of benefit. It’s such a shame,” said Michelle Saylor, executive director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice. 

HMS Host is presently seeking a relief package from the City of Los Angeles which UNITE HERE Local 11 estimates is worth more a $100 million in lease extension-related revenue and rent relief. HMS Host’s contract with the City and the terms of the proposed relief package require that it comply with wage laws. Workers are asking the City Council to reject the relief package for HMS Host, which may be voted on next week.

HMS Host LAX workers and Ron Herrera outside Los Angeles City Hall

“Airport workers like Debbie make LAX run, and the City of Los Angeles has a responsibility to them, not multi-billion-dollar companies like HMS Host. These workers have the full support of the LA Labor movement and we ask the City of Los Angeles to reject a lease and rent deduction package for HMS Host,” said Ron Herrera International Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The press conference comes the same day that HMS Host has announced what it has called a “permanent layoff” of hundreds of workers at airports in Orange County, CA, and elsewhere across the country. As of today, they will lose recall rights and the security of knowing they will be able to return to their jobs once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

LAX airport workers rally as HMS Host workers announce class action lawsuit

The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the plaintiff workers by Lauren Teukolsky of Teukolsky Law, APC; Josh Young of Gilbert & Sackman, ALC; and Jeremy Blasi.

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UNITE HERE Local 11 is the union of more than 32,000 workers in hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas & convention centers in So. California & Arizona.