California Governor Gavin Newsom Signs into Law Bill for Right to Return to Work

Hot off the presses: California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that provides rights to return to work for hospitality workers across hotels, airports, convention centers and clubs. The bill had passed the State Assembly earlier in the week. As an emergency measure, the bill goes into effect immediately.

We are grateful to the leadership and tenacity of our state Democratic legislators, especially Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, who have valiantly stood with us in our journey to secure these rights.

CA State Labor Commissioner Lilia Garcia-Brower

Today CA Labor CommissionerLilia Garcia-Brower began distributing more than $1.5 million to 57 workers laid off at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes during the COVID-19 pandemic who were not offered job positions promptly as required by the Right to Recall Law.

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.”

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.”

###

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.

WeHo Hotel Workers and Allies March to City Hall to Demand Immediate Action

After the City Council and City Manager discussed postponement of hotel worker protection policy during Monday’s Council meeting, workers and allies deliver petition to City Hall with 100 worker signatures in support of protection ordinance 

West Hollywood, CA: Over 30 workers and community allies, including a representative from the Stonewall Democratic Club and West Hollywood residents, marched to City Hall to deliver a petition in support of the anticipated hotel worker protection policy after a delay in the vote was announced during Monday night’s City Council meeting.

“I worked at the Standard for 16 years, and I still have no idea if I will be recalled back to work. Why would the city delay this?” said Sandra Pellecer, a former cook at the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood, as she attempted to deliver the petition with 100 worker signatures to City Hall.

The policy is aimed at ensuring workers in the hotel industry, many of whom have dedicated decades of service to the industry, have jobs to return to as the economy reopens. The policy will also contain a series of measures to address the constellation of industry-wide problems that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as sexual assault, inadequate compensation for heavy workloads, and the lack of comprehensive, standardized training.

With the industry scheduled to reopen in less than a week, dozens of laid off hotel workers urged the City to bring the ordinance to a vote as soon as possible.

“We need to know that we will return to jobs where we have enough time to clean rooms thoroughly,” said Norma Hernandez, a room attendant who worked at the Mondrian for 12 years. “Before I was laid off, I would clean 12 rooms in a day. I was constantly racing against the clock to finish my assignment, and would even go without water to avoid bathroom breaks to save time. We need to be compensated fairly for this work if we are recalled.”

Similar worker retention ordinances have been passed in many cities across the region, including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, Glendale, and Los Angeles County. In 2019, the city of Santa Monica passed a historic Housekeeper Bill of Rights with similar panic button, workload compensation, training, and worker retention measures. Santa Monica also passed right of recall in the wake of 9/11.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, 95% of hotel workers were laid off, most left without healthcare or job security, and many after decades in the industry. Workers in the hotel industry are overwhelmingly immigrants and women of color, some of the hardest hit amid the pandemic.

The policy would ensure that hotel workers are a part of a just economic recovery for West Hollywood.

Hospitality workers celebrate right to return to work

UNITE HERE Local 11’s Statement on Right to Return to Work Bill Signed by Governor Newsom

UNITE HERE Local 11’s Statement on Right to Return to Work Bill Signed by Governor Newsom

California becomes first state in the U.S to pass historic worker protections

BREAKING NEWS:  We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom’s signing of the Hospitality Workers Right to Return bill today which guarantees that hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers will have the legal right to return to work when tourism returns.

COVID-19 has devastated the tourism industry. More than a year after the pandemic began, 80% of hotel workers remain unemployed. Dozens of UNITE HERE Local 11 members have lost their lives to COVID-19.

During the worst health crisis in modern history, many hospitality employers–such as the Terranea Resort and Chateau Marmont–terminated workers who had made their hotels successful, without extending their healthcare or making any binding commitment to recall them when the crisis subsides.  By discarding their veteran employees when they needed them most, these irresponsible employers left workers in a state of profound insecurity, creating a critical need for right-to-return to-work legislation.

Beginning in May 2020, UNITE HERE Local 11 passed the nation’s first hospitality workers’ right to return to work law in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and elsewhere in Southern California. Similar legislation has since been passed throughout the country, including in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Oakland, and Boston.

Today’s law covers the world’s largest tourism industry. More than 700,000 California hotel, event center, airport concession, and building services workers will now have the right to return to their jobs when the pandemic subsides.  This law brings hope and security to these professional service workers and their families.

“I’ve been struggling to make ends meet and was in the hospital for Covid-19 in January. Right now, I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay my medical bills and rent after my young daughter was also in the hospital for kidney failure. I want respect and rights for workers like me. I need to go back to work for my family and this law will help me do that,” said Antonio Rodriguez, who worked as a banquet server at Terranea Resort for 11 years.

We urge other states to follow Governor Newsom’s lead and guarantee the right to return to work to all hospitality workers in our nation.

“We know that the hospitality industry has been decimated by the pandemic, but it’s not the executives who are suffering. Their paychecks continue to come in. It’s working people who are paying the price,” said State Senator Maria Elena Durazo. “Too many times, after times of crises, we see the hotel industry come roaring back while their former workers are left out cold. Thanks to Governor Newsom’s signing of this bill, we are not going to let that happen this time around,”

“Workers need certainty right now as we reopen the state. Knowing they will be offered their jobs back should give hospitality workers a bit of long overdue relief. It’s just the right thing to do,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez.

“I commend Governor Newsom for signing SB 93 into law and recognizing that California’s economy cannot recover without its workers. We saw firsthand the economic devastation the Great Recession had on the state’s workforce and during the pandemic, thousands across the hospitality and building services industry have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. In the face of an uncertain economic recovery, this legislation is a necessary yet reasonable approach that will ensure security for an already vulnerable workforce by affording long standing, qualified employees the opportunity to return to their jobs as businesses resume operations,” said Assemblyman Ash Kalra.

“I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing such a historic policy. The Los Angeles Labor Movement is proud to have stood in solidarity with the housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers, servers, and airport workers to pass this landmark policy. This is a huge win for workers in California and is an example of what our movement can accomplish when we stick together and fight for common goal,” Ron Herrera, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

We are grateful to the leadership and tenacity of our state Democratic legislators, especially Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Assemblyman Ash Kalra, and Senator Maria Elena Durazo, who valiantly fought for these workers. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, led by Ron Herrera, walked with us every step of the way, and we thank the MLB Players Association, the NFL Players Association, SAG AFTRA and CLUE and Jesuits West for their early support.

We are most inspired and humbled by the courageous room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, and food service workers who lobbied, picketed, and never doubted for a moment that they deserved to return to their jobs.