Hotel Wars: Lawsuits, Protests and Raises Turn Up Heat in OC, LBC

Los picket signs. Photo by Dick Slaughter

Whether loud protests with drums and whistles outside Anaheim Resort hotels in the early morning hours or quieter lawsuit filings in courtrooms, the local hotel wars have many fronts. Unite Here Local 11, a union representing hotel workers, is active on all of them. There’s been protests outside the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort with planned arrests and pickets with one unplanned arrest when labor organizer Joseph Murphy got hauled off by Anaheim PD following a citizen’s arrest for disturbing the peace–the private citizen alleged Murphy chanted and banged drums that morning around 5:20 a.m.

The hard work is paying off with #RaiseOC lifting wages at four OC hotels so far.

A lawsuit in Long Beach against a measure pushed by the union, a new contract at the Sheraton Park approved with near-unanimous support and the #MeToo movement on the move in Irvine are just a few of the flash points in the hotel wars. Get caught up here.

Anaheim: 

The Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort restarted negotiations on Monday following a sizable protest and civil disobedience action outside the NAMM Show last week. Twenty-one people got arrested after shutting down the main intersection of Katella Avenue and Harbor Boulevard in front of the hotel. The protest turned out about a thousand people. With a strike authorized by vote, the action showed the Sheraton Park that hotel workers could pull off a work stoppage if need be. Either way, both sides reached a tentative agreement this week in averting a strike. Workers ratified it yesterday with a 99 percent vote in favor. The contract boosts pay to $21.80 by Jan. 2023 and affords new workplace protections against sexual harassment in the form of panic buttons.

Across the way, the Anaheim Hilton labor dispute remains unresolved.

Irvine: 

Hotel workers at the Irvine Marriott voted to unionize with Unite Here Local 11 earlier this month. It capped a triumph over a dirty anti-union campaign waged by the CBRE-owned hotel that resulted in seven unfair labor practices (what cool, hip labor organizers call ULPs) with the National Labor Relations Board. But winning a union didn’t bring immediate labor peace. In a Bloomberg exclusive, an Irvine Marriott housekeeper filed a lawsuit this week against her employer for failing to protect and investigate instances of sexual battery and harassment committed while on the job. Leticia Vallejo claims, in one such incident, a drunk guest groped her while she cleaned a lobby bathroom, offering $50 during the unwanted feel up. A supervisor is alleged to have joked the allegation away by saying “he should have offered you $100.”

The Irvine Marriott once provided panic buttons to housekeepers but took them away in 2012.

Long Beach: 

Speaking of panic buttons and sexual harassment, Long Beach voters passed Measure WW in November providing such protections in addition to other workplace safety measures. The California Hotel & Lodging Association responded this week by suing the city over the new law. “Safety is paramount for our industry,” said Heather Rozman, executive director of the Long Beach Hospitality Alliance. “Measure WW, however, lack clear regulatory oversight and makes it impossible for hotels to comply with Cal/OSHA’s consistent standards.” Opponents of the new law downplayed the prevalence of assaults on the job, trotting out a statistic of 2 such incidents reported to law enforcement in 2017.

The initiative, dubbed “Claudia’s Law” and backed by Unite Here Local 11, pushed a strong #MeToo message in the campaign. In addition to panic buttons for hotels with 50 or more rooms, it also proposed other workplace protections including the right to refuse overtime shifts without having to fear retaliation from management and double pay for workloads exceeding 4,000 sq. ft. in a single shift.

Disneyland Resort: 

Back to Anaheim, pay raises go into effect today for many hotel workers at the Disneyland, Paradise Pier and Grand Californian hotels. The minimum wage for union workers at the three sites is now $15 an hour. Unite Here Local 11 and the Disneyland Resort reached the agreement back in September. It remains to be seen if the Coalition of Labor Resort Unions, which Unite Here Local 11 belongs to, will sue Anaheim and the Disneyland Resort over Measure L, a living wage ballot initiative passed in November for resort-area corporations that have tax agreements with the city.

After the cancellation of two such agreements, the city doesn’t believe the law applies to the Disneyland Resort and isn’t enforcing it against them. There’s hundreds of workers at the hotels who are subcontracted with Sodexo and aren’t covered by the contract. Vamos a ver qué pasa.

Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!

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