PRESS RELEASE: Boycott of Hotel Figueroa and Restaurant Operator, The Botanical Group, Declared Following Firings, Shootings, and Unsettled Labor Dispute; Letter Signed by Hundreds Delivered

LOS ANGELES:  UNITE HERE Local 11 and dozens of workers and clergy leaders from CLUE held a press conference calling for a boycott of the Hotel Figueroa and The Botanical Group, which is the newest restaurant operator, on Thursday.  The worker-called boycott marks a significant escalation in a months-long labor dispute that began last July.

“I’m calling for a boycott of the hotel because our jobs are very difficult, and the company’s response to our strike and their failure to sign a fair contract has shown that they don’t value or respect us,” said Noelia Gonzales, room attendant at the Figueroa Hotel.

The hotel’s workers, who have been protesting and striking for wages enabling them to afford to live in Los Angeles amid soaring housing costs, have faced violence on the picket line.  During a strike in January, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, workers were fired upon by a sniper, apparently using an air rifle, with large metal ball bearings.  They have taken to wearing bullet proof vests and helmets on the picket lines.  The unknown assailant remains at large.

“I was shot twice with metal ball bearings from across the street while on strike with my coworkers. I was hit on my neck and feet. We do not deserve to risk our safety simply because we are advocating for ourselves. I want there to be justice, and for the violence that we endured to not go unnoticed, that is why we are calling for a boycott,” said Felix Vanegas, houseman at the Figueroa Hotel.

Making matters even worse, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, more than one hundred food and beverage workers were fired in February by the hotel’s former food and beverage operator after workers began an effort to unionize.  After a brief closure, a new operator reopened the Cafe Fig and other outlets, but without the workers who had staffed the restaurant for years.  UNITE HERE Local 11 has requested that the Office of Los Angeles City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto investigate potential violations of Los Angeles’s Hotel Worker Retention Ordinance.

Workers and community allies delivered a letter signed by nearly 500  people demanding that the hotel bring back the “Figueroa 100.” Workers are calling for tourists and visitors to choose alternatives for any travel and events until all of the workers have won the dignity and respect they deserve and the fired restaurant workers are returned to work.

“We denounce the violence picketing workers have endured with metal ball pellets shot at them while on strike and we demand the hotel bring back the Figueroa 100. Why should workers have to be out in the street subjecting themselves to this kind of violence-literally picketing in bulletproof vests, helmets, and goggles?  It should not take this kind of bravery to simply get a company to pay wages that workers can live on.  You cannot treat people like this,” said Ada Briceño, co-president UNITE HERE Local 11.

Joining the workers was Reverend Edgar Colon of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, “CLUE will join the boycott of this establishment, and will neither eat, meet, sleep or gather here until the issues that the workers have laid out have been resolved.