SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Faith and community leaders in Santa Monica held a “Truth Commission” on November 16 in response to violence against picketing hotel workers at the Fairmont Miramar and the exploitation of unhoused migrant workers brought in to replace striking workers at the Le Meridien Delfina.
The event featured 9 Commissioners, including former Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, Santa Monica Human Services Commissioner Luis Barrera Castañón, and Ana Grande, Executive Director of the Program for Tortured Victims.
“Due to staff shortages, I did the work of 3 or 4 people,” shared Alexander Gallego, who recently arrived from Colombia and an unhoused migrant brought in to replace striking workers at Le Meridien Delfina. “They never told me that I had a right to ten minute breaks.”
Workers also spoke about being subjected to violence by hotel security guards, as well as alleged retaliation from hotel management for union involvement.“On August 5th, my coworkers and I were attacked by hotel security at the Fairmont Miramar. A guard threw me to the ground,” said German Martinez, a shop steward at the hotel. “I never expected violence from security, much less from the hotel itself. I still suffer from knee pain from falling on the rocks.”
Community leaders who were present as Truth Commissioners expressed their concern and support of workers, urging Santa Monica political leaders to enforce existing laws that protect workers from abuse.
“The hotel industry plays a very important role in this city, and we rely on the work that you do,” CLUE Board Member, Vivian Rothstein, told workers after they shared their testimonies. “Santa Monica prides itself on being progressive, and the city as a whole needs to know about this.”
“These worker stories are a call to action,” said Saba Waheed, Director of the UCLA Labor Center. “The city should investigate the claims we heard today about the violence and retaliation. Over the decades, Santa Monica has led the nation to pass policy to protect workers for exactly moments like this. Let’s amplify the strength of the city and its laws and protect the most vulnerable workers.”
“Because of Santa Monica, there are laws across other parts of Los Angeles county against the mistreatment, violence, and exploitation you have faced,” said former Los Angeles City councilmember, Mike Bonin. “This community and union have fought together to win those laws. But laws don’t change reality, they only change what’s possible. We need to insist on their enforcement. It has to be done insistently and relentlessly.”
Hotel workers across many Santa Monica hotels are in an ongoing labor dispute with hotels as they seek better wages and working conditions in what has become the largest hotel worker strike in modern history. On October 23, the use of migrant labor at struck hotels compelled Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to launch an investigation into potential violations by hotels and their subcontractors.
Following the Truth Commission, UNITE HERE Local 11 sent Los Angeles City Attorney Sloann a letter urging the city to further investigate possible violations of Santa Monica laws at hotels that brought in replacement migrant workers.