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.

LAX Workers Protest Alleged Violation of LAX Minimum Wage Law

Activists claim HMS Host is Ineligible for Rent Relief

Los Angeles, CA: Laid-off concessions workers spoke outside Terminal 4 on Thursday claiming that multibillion-dollar concessionaire HMS Host is ineligible for rent relief due to an outstanding violation of the LAX living wage law. Workers filed complaints with the City in 2019, alleging a failure to pay the minimum wage to HMS Host workers. Workers have not received any payments to compensate them for the alleged minimum wage violation.

This comes on a day when LAWA is considering an extensive second relief package for concessions companies. To be eligible for relief, concessionaires must be in compliance with all City ordinances.

“No company can get away with paying below the minimum wage here at the airport, especially not the big rich ones like HMS Host,” said Marlene Mendoza who was worked at HMS Host at LAX for 32 years. “If the airport keeps giving them money even if they don’t follow the rules, why would they ever follow the rules? No more relief for HMS Host!”

Marlene Mendoza.jpeg

HMS Host is the largest operator of airport concessions in the United States. It is owned by Italian giant Autogrill, which is controlled by the billionaire Benetton family and their global holding firm Edizione. Edizione assets were valued at $13.8 billion at the end of 2019. Autogrill is reportedly negotiating an aid package with the Italian government worth over $350 million dollars.

“For many workers, this back pay is worth hundreds of dollars. Right now, when we are laid-off indefinitely, this money is more important than ever. It means food, it means gas, it means shelter. I can’t believe Host still hasn’t paid us” said Debra Lewis who has worked at HMS Host at LAX for 34 years.

Hundreds of laid-off HMS Host are struggling to stay fed, pay rent, and keep their families safe and healthy during the pandemic. Over 90% of LAX concessions workers are people of color and over 20% are Black.

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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.

Local 11 Statement on Disney Laying Off Cast Members Due to COVID-19

Cast members plan Caravan to Capitol Wednesday, Ask Gov. Newsom to Sign AB 3216

Anaheim, CA: UNITE HERE Local 11 just learned that Disney will lay off approximately 950 of our nearly 3,000 members, effective November 1.  The Union will engage in bargaining with the company over issues including job security and healthcare coverage.  This highlights the urgent need for AB 3216, the California State law that guarantees recall and retention for hospitality workers. We are asking Governor Gavin Newsom to sign AB 3216 now.

Tomorrow, furloughed Disney workers will caravan to the California State Capitol to ask Governor Gavin Newsom sign AB 3216. AB 3216 would guarantee the most experienced of these workers the ability to return to their jobs when the crisis subsides. Governor Gavin Newsom has until September 30 to sign AB 3216.

The caravan comes after Disney announced it would lay off 28,000 of its cast members due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I love my job, which is why as a mom of five kids I am asking Governor Gavin Newsom sign AB 3216 to ensure that hundreds of thousands of workers like myself have the opportunity to return to their job once the pandemic is over” said Ines Guzman, furloughed housekeeper at the Disneyland Hotel for 5 years.

“Our members have given decades of their lives to companies like Disney. Now through no fault of their own, they are being laid off. We urge Governor Gavin Newson to sign AB 3216 a lifeline for hospitality workers” said Ada Briceño, Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County and Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

Frontline LAX Workers Stage “Die-In” for Extended Healthcare

Frontline LAX Workers Stage “Die-In” for Extended Healthcare Amid COVID-19 Health Crisis

“Hundreds of laid-off workers have spoken at LAWA since the pandemic began.  We have told the board about our families need for extended health insurance.  But it has not been enough.   LAWA is considering millions of dollars more in relief for companies. Thousands of LAX workers facing the loss of healthcare for themselves and their families in a pandemic.  Their lives are at stake,” Robin Rodriguez, Organizing Director UNITE HERE Local 11.

Workers of color at LAX have been some of the hardest hit during this pandemic.  At LAX, upwards of 90% of the concession’s workforce are people of color and over 20% of this workforce is Black. Thousands have been laid off due to COVID-19 and are struggling to make rent, with no secure date of return nor a promise of continued healthcare coverage throughout the pandemic.

HMS Host and Areas USA, the two largest concessionaires at LAX who employ a total of about 1700 workers, have refused to make any additional health care payments for their laid-off employees. Other companies at LAX, like Duty Free Shops, Hudson News and Delaware North Companies, have paid additional months of healthcare for their laid-off workers.

“I have given my life to this airport.  My co-workers have given their lives to this airport.  My company has access to millions and millions of dollars.  I do not.  They can afford to extend our healthcare.  Without healthcare we are at higher risk of losing our lives to COVID.  LAWA should not give relief to them unless they do,” Marlene Mendoza, a server of 32 years at LAX for HMS Host.

Since the pandemic began, HMS Host has received relief worth millions of dollars from state and local governments, and its parent company, Italian giant Autogrill, is negotiating an aid package with the Italian government reportedly worth over $350 million dollars.  Areas USA is owned by Paris-based private equity firm PAI Partners, which has $16 billion under management, including $177 million from the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association (LACERA).

“We want LAX and LAWA to do the right thing and extend our healthcare. My entire family depends on me for it. I have two young daughters and don’t know what I would do if they got sick,” Elizabeth Mejia, server for AREAS USA at LAX Airport for 8 years.

The City of Los Angeles approved a temporary rent relief package in April for LAX concessionaires requiring recipients of relief to pay for additional healthcare for laid-off workers.  With the pandemic continuing, workers are now seeking to ensure that any new relief for companies include further extended healthcare for laid-off workers and are calling upon companies to participate and extend workers’ healthcare.

Local 11 and Allies Demand Sheriff Villanueva’s Resignation

LA Hotel Workers Union and Allies Demand Sheriff Villanueva Resign

Los Angeles, CA: Hundreds of community members, led by UNITE HERE Local 11, held a car caravan and delivered a letter demanding the immediate resignation of Sheriff Alex Villanueva because of his failure to reform the Los Angeles Sheriff Department.  Sheriff Villanueva’s refusal to cooperate with an independent investigation of last month’s killing of Andres Guardado by sheriff’s deputies is the last in a dreadful list of malfeasance. The list also includes calling Supervisor Solis a derogatory term and repeatedly blocking internal investigations of deputy misconduct.

UNITE HERE Local 11 was joined by Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles, ACLU SoCal, Justice LA, CLUE, and Check The Sheriff Coalition and more than 60 other labor unions and community groups in the call for Villanueva’s resignation.

“We know an abusive and unjust sheriff when we see one,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11. “Our union successfully unseated Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona in 2016 and we are ready to do the same with Villanueva.”

“Our communities are tired of the lies, abuse, misogyny, and racism that Villanueva consistently hurls at our communities and leaders, said Eunisses Hernandez co-executive director of La Defensa and a member of the JusticeLA Coalition. “It’s time he held himself accountable for his actions and for all the harm he has caused. It’s time he resigns. If not, we’ll make sure he’s out in 2022.”

In 2016, UNITE HERE Local 11 led the successful campaign to unseat the notoriously abusive Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, Arizona.   The campaign to oust Sheriff Arpaio was called #AdiosArpaio.  On Thursday, the coalition launched #AdiosVillanueva.

“From the time he was elected, the Sheriff has treated his office as an abusive dictatorship by reinstating an officer who had been fired due to domestic violence, exceeding his budget beyond that of his predecessors, and adding more trauma to the mourning families of murdered loved” said Pastor Cue Jn’Marie of the Check the Sheriff Coalition. “The murder of 18 year old Andres Guardado and the attempted cover up by Sheriff deputies was the last straw that broke our hearts and will break injustice’s back. Adios Villanueva!”

“The ACLU of Southern California calls for the resignation of an elected local official only in dire circumstances when that official presents a ‘grave and imminent threat to civil liberties.’ Sadly, we have reached that point with Sheriff Villanueva, who has turned his back on the people of Los Angeles County and is actively undermining efforts to rein in a department with a long history of abuse and an utter lack of transparency and accountability. He holds a position of the highest trust, and he has betrayed it,” said Hector Villagra, Executive Director of ACLU SoCal.

Andres Guardado was the son of long time UNITE HERE Local 11 member, Cristobal Guardado, who is a cook at the Downtown Grand Hotel.   Andres was killed while working as a security guard at an auto body shop.  Two autopsies – including one by the LA County Medical Examiner-Coroner – concluded that Andres perished after being shot five times in the back by a sheriffs’ deputy.

“Villanueva has proven himself to be the most corrupt sheriff in the nation. His brazen refusal to engage community or show even the most basic level of respect for County residents further emboldens the most criminal, violent and murderous elements within the ranks,” said Melina Abdullah of Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles. “In the names of Ryan Twyman, AJ Weber, Andres Guardado, Mitrice Richardson, Paul Rea, Anthony Varga, John Horton and hundreds of others, Villanueva must go.”

“Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice is appalled at the way that Sheriff Villaneuva has handled the investigation into the shooting of Andres Guardado. This, on top of his dismissive relationship with the Civilian Oversight Commission, his neglect of his legal responsibilities to answer subpoenas and be accountable to the people of Los Angeles bring us to call for the Sheriff’s immediate resignation. In the Jewish tradition, doing the work of justice in the world is acting as a partner of God. Similarly, perverting justice is the undoing of creation itself. Sheriff Villanueva has, unfortunately been perverting rather than doing justice and it is time for him to go home, to pave the way for justice for Andres Guardado, and to uproot the injustice in the LASD,” said Rabbi Aryeh Cohen.

Workers Report Increases of COVID-19 Cases at LA Hotels as Industry Continues to Reopen

Workers Report Increases of COVID-19 Cases at LA Hotels as Industry Continues to Reopen

Los Angeles, CA: On Wednesday dozens of hotel workers protested for Los Angeles County to pause reopening of hotels to tourists.

The demonstration drew attention to the surge of workers who since returning to work have tested positive for COVID-19, experienced COVID-19 symptoms, or have quarantined because of contact with guests or co-workers who tested positive for COVID-19.

“UNITE HERE Local 11 has learned of at least 85 hotel workers and guests who have either tested positive or have undergone quarantine since the reopening of the hotel sector to tourists and leisure guests on June 12th. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors needs to put the health and safety of workers and guests first,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

The union believes the true number of people who have contracted the virus or who should have quarantined due their potential exposure is significantly higher, since workers are fearful to report their symptoms or diagnoses and hotels have failed to adequately trace guests and workers who have had contact with COVID-19-positive individuals.

During the protest, workers also raised concerns that hotels have failed to inform guests when a worker or fellow guest has tested positive or has been forced to quarantine.

“I am very concerned that when my hotel opens, I will put myself and my family at risk, I have my son, elderly brother, and grand-daughter living with me. They are my everything. I am scared to go back to work,” said Luz Rizo, a housekeeper at the W West Beverly Hills for nearly 20 years.

Earlier this month, a survey conducted UNITE HERE Local 11  with nearly 2,300 hotel workers found that 75 % of hotel workers do not believe hotels are ready to open.  The union has sent a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors expressing alarm about the rushed timeline of the sector’s reopening.

Labor and Clergy Leaders Hold Car Caravan to Protest Slaying of Andres Guardado

Labor and Clergy Leaders Hold Car Caravan to Protest Slaying of Andres Guardado

Call for independent investigation into Guardado’s death

Los Angeles, CA: Dozens of UNITE HERE Local 11 members and clergy stood in solidarity with fellow union member Cristobal Guardado, whose son Andres Guardado was killed by the L.A County Sheriff’s Department.

Andres Guardado, 18, was killed by Los Angeles Sheriffs on June 18th at 6 pm while at work in Gardena, CA.

Andres is the son of Cristobal Guardado, a hardworking cook and loyal member of UNITE HERE Local 11 for over 14 years. To cover for the family’s financial hardship during the pandemic, Andres had taken a second job. He was killed as he was starting his shift.

“It is very difficult for me to be with you here because I feel devastated. I thank all my union brothers and sisters and those who are here fighting for my son. All I want is for there to be justice for my son,” said Cristobal

Guardado, father of Andres Guardado and member of UNITE HERE Local 11.

UNITE HERE Local 11 is a union in Los Angeles that fights for immigrant rights and represents thousands of hospitality workers across the city. Most recently, they secured a right to recall for hospitality workers after the end of the COVID-19 crisis and have joined with Black Lives Matter – LA in calling for a People’s Budget for the City of Los Angeles.

“We are deeply hurt by this tragedy. As a union that fights for justice for all people, we believe an injury to one is an injury to all. We are committed to following through until justice is served for the slaying of Andres Guardado at the hands of L.A. County Sheriffs,” said Kurt Petersen, Co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11.

UNITE HERE Local 11 joins the call for an independent investigation into Andres’ death by the Office of the Inspector General. Furthermore, the local calls on the Sheriff to release Andres Guardado’s autopsy so that justice may be served for Andres, Cristobal, and their family.