PRESS INQUIRIES

For Press Inquiries:
Maria Hernandez, Communications
(623) 340-8047 (mobile)
mhernandez {at} unitehere11 {dot} org

For Arizona Press Inquiries:
Rachele Smith, Communications
(623) 670-9889 (mobile)
rsmith {at} unitehere11 {dot} org

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

PRESS RELEASE

UNITE HERE Local 11 Calls for Moratorium on All Development Deals in Light of FBI Corruption Allegations Around Angel Stadium Deal 

Anaheim Workers and Residents Claim Unchecked Power In City Hurts Families

Anaheim, CA:  The morning after UNITE HERE Local 11 called on the Anaheim City Council to vote to cancel the Angel Stadium deal in light of a recently revealed FBI investigation into alleged corruption by city leaders, dozens of their members, residents and allies called for a moratorium on all the city’s pending development deals.

Hospitality workers also shared how corruption and backroom dealing in Anaheim have hurt them, claiming that money interests have controlled the development process and politics for far too long. They say canceling the Angel Stadium deal was a starting point, but will keep fighting for more to be done.

“I fought to win district elections because I wanted my neighbors and I to have a voice on the issues that mattered to us most like affordable housing and good jobs. The way corruption and special interests have taken over that voice at city hall is disrespectful to us as workers and our democracy.” said Mercedes Rojas who works as a housekeeper and is a member of UNITE HERE Local 11.

“I was forced to move out of Orange County because I could no longer afford to live near where I worked. I lost my  job at the Honda Center in 2013, and had to work multiple jobs to try and make ends meet. No other workers and their families should have to go through this,” said Chris Smith, events server and member of UNITE HERE Local 11.

“The pattern is clear. The people of Anaheim deserve to know which other deals are infected. We need a moratorium on all pending development deals with the City of Anaheim,” said Ada Briceño, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

Terranea Resort Agrees to Pay $1.52 Million to Resolve Legal Citation for Laid Off Workers 

Settlement reached with California Labor Commissioner in first legal action under state “return-to-work” law for workers laid off during the pandemic

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA-  The California Labor Commissioner’s Office has reached a $1.52 million settlement with the Terranea Resort to resolve a citation the agency issued in March to the ritzy resort alleging that it violated state law by failing to timely recall laid-off workers to their former positions.  The company also agreed to recall several veteran employees.

The settlement resolves the first case ever under California’s recently-enacted return-to-work law.  Signed into law last year, SB-93 requires hotels, event centers, and other hospitality businesses to offer employees whom they laid off due the COVID-19 downturn in tourism an opportunity to return to work in open positions for which they are qualified in order of seniority. The statute provides job protections to some 700,000 housekeepers, cooks, waiters, and other laid off workers.

David Gomez Martinez, who was laid off by the Terranea after working 10 years at the resort, said: “Being laid off during the pandemic has been devastating for me and my family. We’ve struggled to pay our bills and keep food on the table. I am really glad to know I will be getting my job back. Sad it took the state stepping in to make sure Terranea followed the law.”

The state agency, which is led by California’s Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower, conducted an investigation in response to complaints from workers alleging violations of the recall law. More than a dozen Terranea workers–including servers, cooks, and room attendants–filed complaints.

The Labor Commissioner’s investigation found that the resort failed to recall, or to timely recall, 57 former employees.  Each of these 57 workers will receive a share of the $1.52 million settlement, with the average payout approximately $26,500 per worker.  Under the statute, damages are calculated based on the number of days a worker waits to be offered open positions for which they are qualified. The company will also pay $5,300 in civil penalties to the State of California.

Terranea workers were at the forefront of the campaign to enact SB-93. The company terminated most of its employees without making a binding commitment to rehire them and cut off their healthcare at the beginning of the pandemic.

Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, the hospitality workers’ union that fought for the law and helped the workers file complaints, said: “This is a tremendous victory for the Terranea’s workers, who fought to win and then to enforce their right to return to their jobs and provide for their families.  This massive settlement sends a powerful message to the entire hospitality industry that these worker protections have real teeth and that companies may violate them at their peril.  We commend the Labor Commissioner’s office for conducting such a thorough and effective investigation of the workers’ complaints.”

“My legislative colleagues and I fought to pass a law where hardworking long time employees who were laid off during the pandemic could return to their jobs,” said State Senator Maria Elena Durazo. “This outcome shows what can happen when workers, like those at the Terranea Resort, stand up for their rights and we in government listen and act.  I congratulate the California Labor Commissioner and her staff for their tremendous work to enforce this critical law.”

UNITE HERE Local 11 Housekeepers Submit 100k Signatures on Groundbreaking Initiative to City of Los Angeles

Initiative would follow lead of neighboring cities to mandate panic buttons  and raise minimum wage for hotel workers

Los Angeles – Over one hundred housekeepers and other hospitality workers today turned in the petitions they have collected since late January to qualify their initiative for the November 2022 ballot. The initiative mirrors protections they have secured in Long Beach, Santa Monica and most recently West Hollywood.

“I am one of thousands of housekeepers in Los Angeles who will finally have panic buttons and other protections on the job”, said Martha Moran, a laid off housekeeper from the storied Chateau Marmont. “My coworkers and I deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and to receive fair compensation for the work we do. This initiative provides those things.”

Over one hundred thousand Angelenos have signed on to the measure that provides:

  • Panic buttons and other security measures to protect hotel housekeepers from sexual assault and threatening conduct
  • Fair compensation for heavy workloads
  • Automatic daily room cleaning throughout the industry
  • Expansion of minimum wage law for hotel workers
    “My heart is always with the workers, like my mother, who worked her fingers to the bone,” said Councilman Kevin De Leon. “The hard-working immigrant women and men who make up the hospitality industry in our city are the backbone of our economy and I’m proud to stand with them today as they submit their historic initiative petition. I’m ready to work with my colleagues on the L.A. City Council to transform this initiative into law. The people have spoken, and it’s our job to listen.”

“Even though I don’t work at a hotel, I understand that raising the standards for some of the lowest paid workers in the hospitality industry will bring up standards for all of us,” said Isha Kallay, food server from the Hollywood Park and Casino. “I wanted to collect signatures for this initiative because we need to stick together in order for all of us to get ahead.”

The housekeeping measure comes in response to the hotel industry’s attempt to cut labor costs and increase workloads by eliminating daily room cleaning during the pandemic. It also provides vital protections against sexual assault for housekeepers when cleaning guest rooms alone. The workers call on the Los Angeles City Council to outright adopt the law.

“The hotel industry has wanted to get rid of daily room cleaning for years, and the pandemic gave them the perfect excuse,” notes Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. “Angelenos have just shown the industry, led by the Chateau Marmont, that they see through the greedy pandemic profiteering tactics and stand with the housekeepers. I am hopeful that the Los Angeles City Council will do the same and outright adopt the ordinance. Los Angeles is a leading tourist destination; that should mean good jobs for Angelenos.”

Watch the entire press conference here
View more photos here

PRESS RELEASE

Congress Questions $696 billion in Paycheck Protection Program Loans Forgiven by the Small Business Administration ahead of House Oversight Hearing

Representatives highlight loans to hotel chain Westmont Hospitality Group in letter to SBA calling for “vigilant oversight” of loan forgiveness process: “Where did the money go?”

 

CA and AZ – Tuesday, Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) led a letter to the Small Business Administration (SBA) calling for vigilant oversight as $696 billion of the total $789 billion lent through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) phase has already been forgiven.

On Wednesday, UNITE HERE Local 11 will submit testimony at a House Small Business Administration’s Small Business Oversight, Investigations and Regulations Committee hearing titled “An Empirical Review of the Paycheck Protection Program.”

The letter (available here). follows President Biden’s March 1 announcement that the Department of Justice will appoint a Chief Prosecutor to focus on the most egregious forms of pandemic fraud. Gallego was joined by Representatives Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA), Grace Flores Napolitano (D-CA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Norma Torres (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Darren Soto (D-FL).

The letter highlights Westmont Hospitality Group, an international hotel company that owns and operates over 400 hotels around the world, as an example of the need for “vigilant oversight” and improved transparency. According to data provided by the SBA, Westmont affiliates received $48 million through 44 PPP loans that were tied to approximately 5,300 jobs. Despite this, the letter states, a lack of transparency by the SBA has made it “impossible” to determine whether those 5,300 jobs were actually retained, yet over $28 million of the Westmont-connected loans have already been forgiven.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was passed by Congress as part of the CARES Act of 2020 in an effort to support small businesses and save jobs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP borrowers must spend at least 60% of their loans on payroll costs in order to receive full loan forgiveness.

UNITE HERE Local 11, the labor union that represents hospitality workers in California and Arizona, presented evidence to Congress Members regarding one hotel connected to Westmont that received a PPP loan but issued WARN Act notices that it had permanently separated 122 workers, raising the question whether PPP had really served its purpose of protecting jobs.

As of January 3, 2022, SBA had forgiven $9.7 billion of the $13.9 billion in PPP loans to hotels. With the support of PPP funds, the hotel industry has not only weathered the pandemic but has grown on the backs of its workers, with fewer workers forced to do more work than before this unprecedented crisis. While the number of U.S. private industry accommodations establishments increased by 1,375 from the first quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of 2021,  the industry employed 443,600 fewer workers in February 2022 than in February 2020 before the pandemic.

Congressman Ruben Gallego said, “When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, the Paycheck Protection Program served as a critical lifeline to keep our businesses open and hardworking Americans employed. In the years since, we have seen companies recover, but it hasn’t been clear whether some businesses upheld their end of the bargain to keep workers employed. As SBA continues to monitor the program, it is important companies are fully transparent in justifying PPP loan forgiveness. That’s why I am leading this call for SBA to update Congress on what it’s doing to protect hospitality workers’ jobs.”

Elba Hernandez, a housekeeper at the Westmont-operated Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites, said, “For the many months that I was laid off during the pandemic, I didn’t get a cent from Westmont. I am very upset that Westmont got $48 million and still hasn’t told us how they spent the money.” Hernandez’s employer is a limited liability company that has as its manager or member a Westmont affiliate that received PPP funds.

Groups supporting the letter include the Covid Oversight Coalition, Public Citizen, American Oversight, Americans for Financial Reform and United Steelworkers and UNITE HERE Local 11.

Lisa Gilbert, Executive Vice President of Public Citizen, said “The Paycheck Protection Program was intended to provide funds to small businesses as a lifeline to regular Americans in a time of crisis. Ensuring that the funds were not abused and that they were used to keep Americans at work is a key duty of Congress. Public Citizen vigorously applauds Rep. Gallego for pushing for more transparency and accountability of the PPP funds.”

Aliya Sabharwal, Covid Oversight Campaign Manager at Americans for Financial Reform, said, “The Paycheck Protection Program was not intended to be a bailout for billionaire corporations. Small businesses are still struggling to stay open while big companies seem to have made a profit. That’s not right. We need to know where that taxpayer money went and to whom. And if companies got it but didn’t follow the rules, there must be consequences.”

Congressman Gallego’s letter follows prior letters urging SBA to improve transparency and oversight of PPP loans that highlighted hotel chains: an October 2020 letter led by Congresswoman Porter, a July 2021 letter led by Congresswoman Barragan and a February 2022 letter from Congresswoman Judy Chu asking the SBA to improve transparency around PPP loan forgiveness.

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UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona who work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers, and airports.

CA Labor Commissioner Issues $3.3 Million Citation to Terranea Resort for Failing to Rehire Laid Off Workers

Press Contact: Maria Hernandez | 623-340-8047 | mhernandez@unitehere11.org

In first-of-its-kind legal action, agency alleges resort violated state “return-to-work” law for workers laid off during the pandemic

Rancho Palos Verdes, CA-  The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) issued a citation Wednesday totalling $3,264,484 to the swanky but controversial Terranea Resort, alleging that the hotel failed to recall, or to timely recall, workers to their former positions in violation of a recently-enacted state law. The Terranea resort is the first company known to be cited by the agency for allegedly violating workers’ rights under the law.

Signed into law last year, SB-93 requires hotels, event centers, and other hospitality businesses to offer employees whom they laid off due the COVID-19 downturn in tourism an opportunity to return to work in open positions for which they are qualified in order of seniority. The law provides job protection to some 700,000 laid-off housekeepers, cooks, waiters, and others across the state.

David Gomez Martinez, who was laid off by the Terranea after working 10 years at the resort, said: “Being laid off during the pandemic has been devastating for me and my family. We’ve struggled to pay our bills and keep food on the table. I am really glad to see the state stepping in to make sure Terranea complies with the law.”

The DLSE, which is led by California’s Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower, conducted an investigation in response to complaints from workers alleging violations of the recall law. More than a dozen Terranea workers–including servers, cooks, and room attendants–filed complaints.

After investigating Terranea’s entire recall process, the DLSE issued the citation to Terranea for $3,264,484 in liquidated damages and interest owed to 53 workers for Terranea’s alleged failure to recall, or timely recall, workers laid-off due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Terranea was also assessed $5,300 in civil penalties ($100 for each worker whose rights were violated).

Terranea workers were at the forefront of the campaign to enact SB-93. The company terminated most of its employees without making a binding commitment to rehire them and cut off their healthcare at the beginning of the pandemic.

Kurt Petersen, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, the hospitality workers’ union that fought for the law and helped the workers file complaints, said: “The Terranea has treated its veteran workers like they are disposable. This kind of behavior is not only immoral, but as the agency’s massive citation shows, it can also be illegal.” He continued: “I commend the Labor Commissioner for conducting such a thorough investigation and showing that our worker protection laws have real teeth.”

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UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing over 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona that work in hotels, restaurants, universities, stadiums, sports arenas, convention centers, and airports.

On Eve of Super Bowl UNITE HERE Local 11 & NFLPA Honor Former Rams Player Kenny Washington

Joined by prominent labor, political, and civil rights leaders to celebrate SoFi Stadium’s union recognition with focus on tourism as economic engine

Los Angeles – Union members, labor leaders, elected officials, and allies gathered in celebration of a resolution passed to “commemorate February 13, 2022, as Kenny Washington Day and recognize his trailblazing contributions in breaking the color barrier in the NFL and his service to the City”.

Washington’s vision of a more inclusive sports world lives on as concessions workers at SoFi Stadium fight for good jobs in a region that has predominantly left out black workers.

Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, said, “More than 30,000 professional hospitality workers – bartenders, servers, room attendants, cooks – who have built and who sustain our region’s most important and largest industry, tourism. We believe that when hospitality workers can provide for themselves and their families, they lift up the entire city with them.”

Susan Minato, Co-President of Local 11 and Chair of Trustees of the Hospitality Training Academy, reminded everyone that it takes intention to do the work. “Local 11 has set the goal to reintegrate our hospitality industry that has systematically removed African Africans. It takes bringing jobs to communities like Inglewood. But not just any jobs – they need to be good jobs where people can support themselves and their families.”

“At SoFi stadium, UNITE HERE Local 11 has advanced the cause of racial, economic, and gender justice,” said Reverend James Lawson, architect of the Civil Rights Movement.

Chris Smith, a suite attendant at SoFi Stadium, celebrated the union victory. “This union job makes it possible for me to accomplish my dream – buying a house. My dream is in my hands now. It’s monumental to the African American community – for example dishwashers will be making $30 an hour and family health insurance by end of the contract.”

Kenny Washington’s family was presented with the resolution and stadium workers will celebrate union recognition. Ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, the event honored the important work former Rams player Kenny Washington did to integrate sports and highlight what is being done now to bring good jobs to the region.

“Kenny Washington has a special place in history, in the story of the NFL, in the story of Los Angeles, in the story of fighting for justice, equality and inclusivity EVERYWHERE,” said Councilmember Curren Price. “I’m proud to have introduced a resolution that officially marks February 13, 2022 as ‘Kenny Washington Day’ in the City of Angels.”

“We are incredibly proud as a family, after all these years, that there is interest in telling my grandfather’s story,” said Kirk Washington, grandson of former Rams player Kenny Washington.

Super Bowl LVI marks the first of many sporting events to be hosted in Southern California in the coming years and will serve as an example of what can be achieved when workers, elected leaders and the community are a part of that process.

“Today’s solidarity event was a testament to the values of diversity, inclusion and equity that our union brothers and sisters stand for, just as Kenny Washington did so courageously when he broke the modern NFL color barrier in 1946,” said DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the NFL Player’s Association.

“In order to win justice for workers of color and the communities they live in, we must empower them economically, which includes increasing access to good union jobs,” said Ron Herrera, the President of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.. “I am proud of the work that the Los Angeles Labor Movement has done to ensure that SoFi stadium provides good union jobs for communities of color in this region.

“Working people shouldn’t have to walk through fire to organize a union and have a good paying job because we know that unions transform people’s lives and entire communities, not just one workplace. And that’s what this SoFi agreement will do,” said Liz Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO.

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The National Football League Players Association is the union for professional football players in the National Football League. Established in 1956, the NFLPA has a long history of assuring proper recognition and representation of players’ interests. The NFLPA has shown that it will do whatever is necessary to assure that the rights of players are protected—including ceasing to be a union, if necessary, as it did in 1989. In 1993, the NFLPA again was officially recognized as the union representing the players and negotiated a landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL. The current CBA will govern the sport through the 2030 NFL season. Learn more at www.nflpa.com.

Sierra Club, Climate Action Campaign, and Hotel Workers’ Union Call on Escondido City Council to replace JC Resorts as Golf Course Operator and Consider Alternative Uses for the Site

PRESS ADVISORY: 1/25/2022
PRESS CONTACT: Jordan Fein
jfein@unitehere11.org
312-576-5048

Reidy Creek Golf Course in Escondido has presented challenges for taxpayers, and presents opportunity for housing and open space in order to save water and natural resources used to maintain the course.

Escondido, CA – On Wednesday, January 26, the City of Escondido will consider a request for proposals for the management of Reidy Creek Golf Course and Concessions. The City’s ten-year contract with JC Resorts expires on June 30, 2022.

A coalition of hotel workers’ union locals and environmental groups are calling on the City to replace current Reidy Creek operator, JC Resorts, and reconsider the use of the site as a golf course altogether. 

The course has presented challenges for Escondido taxpayers. The San Diego Union-Tribune called the course a “municipal money pit” in October 2018. Since 2018, Escondido taxpayers have continued to subsidize the Reidy Creek course.  

The coalition is urging the City to consider alternative uses for the site, such as housing and open space. The average 18-hole golf course reportedly uses almost 90 million gallons of water per year. As referenced in the San Diego Climate Action Campaign’s “Solving Sprawl” report, repurposing municipal golf courses like Reidy Creek into open space and other uses would save water and natural resources used to maintain the course.  

The organizations will deliver public comment during Wednesday night’s council meeting and continue to push for an alternative vision for Reidy Creek as the contract expiration date nears.

UNITE HERE Local 11 Endorses “Living Wage Hero” Lindsey Horvath for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Danielle Wilson | dwilson[at]unitehere11[dot]org | 818-534-799nine

Los Angeles – UNITE HERE Local 11 is proud to endorse West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors District 3. She was a decisive vote in passing the highest citywide minimum wage in the country.

Horvath’s victory on the minimum wage wasn’t easy. As early as 2015, the young Councilmember led the “Fight for $15” in West Hollywood, but despite her advocacy the then-City Council did not pass her proposal. This past summer Horvath became Mayor of the city, and things started to change. Mayor Horvath fought for and won groundbreaking legislation to protect hotel housekeepers from sexual assault, give them the right to return to their jobs by seniority amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to improve the minimum wage to make sure housekeepers are fairly compensated for heavy workloads. Just months later, Horvath was the deciding vote to pass the highest minimum wage in the country at $17.64, making West Hollywood a national leader on policy for working people.

“Lindsey exemplifies what it means to be a public servant who fights for working people,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “Our members can count on her no matter what, and that’s who we need to send to the Board of Supervisors.”

“The new minimum wage in West Hollywood will change my life, the lives of hotel workers across town, and all workers,” said Sandra Pellecer, who has worked as a cook in West Hollywood hotels for 16 years. “Lindsey Horvath fought for us and I’m proud to stand with her.”

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UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing 32,000 members who work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers, and airports.