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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MAYOR GARCETTI SIGNS HOTEL WORKER PROTECTION ORDINANCE

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Garcetti today was joined by UNITE HERE Local 11 to sign the Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance into law, ensuring hotel workers’ safety, fair compensation, and improvement of the general work environment.

“Hotel workers are on the frontlines of our economic recovery and their work uplifts Los Angeles and is part of what makes this city an amazing place to visit,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “I am proud to sign this ordinance into law — allowing mothers to spend more time with their children and to feel safe when walking into their place of work. Their hard work and perseverance inspires me and they deserve a fair work environment.”

This new law provides for security measures to protect hotel workers from sexual assault and threatening conduct, and fair compensation through a wage premium for heavy workloads in hotels with over 45 guest rooms. These new provisions will give hotel workers an environment in which they are allowed to thrive.

“Our City’s economy is built around the service industry and hotel workers are the City’s backbone,” said Councilmember Kevin De Leon. “Our city council embraced the legislative authority granted to us by the voters of Los Angeles to ensure that they have a safe workplace and the fair compensation that they deserve. I stand with the hard-working immigrant women and men who make up the hospitality industry in our city, and I’m proud that today Mayor Garcetti signed this ordinance into law.”

“The city’s economic recovery is only as good as that of its hospitality workers. This law will make sure that recovery is fair by providing better wages and protections for some of the workers who bore the brunt of the pandemic,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President, UNITE HERE Local 11. “Thank you to Mayor Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council and workers who shared their stories with thousands of voters to make this possible.”

“As a hotel housekeeper it inspires me to see Mayor Garcetti sign into law the ordinance I, and hundreds of other hospitality workers spent months gathering over 100,000 signatures for,” said Isela Ramos, hotel housekeeper and member of UNITE HERE Local 11. “At a time when our rights as women and workers are under attack, this law is proof of the tangible change working people can achieve when we take action in our democracy.”

BREAKING NEWS: 06/28/2021

Los Angeles City Council Passes UNITE HERE Local 11’s Groundbreaking Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance

Ordinance, Now Headed to Mayor Garcetti’s Desk, Will Make Los Angeles one of the nation’s first to require daily room cleaning, panic buttons, and fair compensation for heavy workloads

Los Angeles: In a 8-2 vote, the Los Angeles City Council passed a life changing law that would provide much needed protections for hotel workers across the city.

The final procedural vote comes after the council voted to adopt the ordinance last week.

 The law provides:

  • Automatic daily room cleaning throughout the industry

  • Panic buttons and other security measures to protect hotel housekeepers from sexual assault and threatening conduct

  • Fair compensation for heavy workloads

  • Expansion of minimum wage law for hotel workers

“We are grateful to the Los Angeles City Council for this historic victory for hospitality workers.  During the pandemic hotel housekeepers were lined up at food banks while the hotel industry received billions of dollars of corporate welfare and now are enjoying record breaking profits.  This law, we hope, will start to focus the economic recovery from the greed of corporations to the needs of the workers who are the backbone of the tourism industry,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President, UNITE HERE Local 11.

While much of the law mirrors protections hotel workers have secured in Long Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Glendale, the Los Angeles law also breaks new ground in the region by requiring automatic daily room cleaning of hotel rooms.

“This Council has consistently recognized that, for the past two and a half years, our hotel workers have provided essential services during unprecedented and uncertain times. Their sacrifices and service saved lives, and now it’s time for us to ensure that they have access to the overtime pay and safe working conditions that they deserve,” said Council President Nury Martínez.

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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.

In Honor of 2nd Angelversary of Andres Guardado Allies and Family Rally Outside Hall of Justice Call for Accountability and Charter Amendment

Two years after the killing of Andres Guardado at the hands of Los Angeles Sheriff deputies, UNITE HERE Local 11 and allies continued the call for accountability, justice, and  transparency.

Although an independent investigation was launched by the FBI into the killing of Andres in late 2020, allies say more needs to be done within the department to make sure this never happens again. Saying true transparency and accountability could be achieved through a charter amendment.

The union and allies also heard testimony from the Guardado family and other families impacted by violence within the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

“It has nearly been two years but it feels like just yesterday our son was taken from us.” said Cristobal Guardado, father and UNITE HERE Local 11 member. “ It means the world to me knowing that my son and his memory is not being forgotten.”

On June 18, 2020 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.

Shortly after, UNITE HERE Local 11 and other allies called for Sheriff Alex Villanueva to resign. Thousands of people and groups like CLUE, ACLU SoCal, Check The Sheriff,  and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles have joined the call. Most recently, voters across Los Angeles County overwhelmingly voted for new leadership to lead LASD, with Villanueva only receiving 31% of the vote so far, a runoff election is set to happen in November.

“Voters across Los Angeles County spoke up this past primary election. They want change. They want justice, accountability and transparency within the Sheriff’s department. As a union, we will do whatever it takes to make sure justice is served for the Guardado family and all families impacted by the recklessness of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

”We are urging the Board of Supervisors to refer to voters a County Charter amendment to finally establish meaningful checks and balances of the sheriff and the department—no matter who the sheriff is,” said Pastor Cue, Clergy for Black Lives and Pastor of The Church Without Walls in Skid Row.

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.