Ada Briceño is the current co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11. To date, Briceño has been paid at least $1,484,933 combined, between UNITE HERE Local 11, and its predecessor organization HERE Local 681.
In 2001, Briceño was elected president of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Union Local 681. Shortly after becoming president of Local 681 in 2002, Briceño’s salary jumped by nearly double, from $36,692 to $63,482 – even though the raise came around the time that Local 618 was “losing $50,000 a month.” Briceño’s salary has continued to rise steadily since, and she now earns more than $120,000 per year. During Briceño’s time as president of Local 681, the local also paid out many hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary payments to Briceño’s then-husband Jaime, who was employed as an organizer.
Workers should question how much their interests align with Briceño, who has so heavily profited off her time working for UNITE HERE. In 2014, Briceño spoke in support of a Los Angeles city law that exempted unionized employees from a higher hourly wage. The law, which unsurprisingly was crafted with direct assistance from UNITE HERE, was accused of pressuring hotels to unionize their workforces. UNITE HERE workers were later outraged to discover Briceño and their own union had fought to depress members’ wages. In 2018, Briceño proclaimed she was “very disappointed” after the Walt Disney Company tied a one-time $1,000 bonus for employees to contract negotiations. Briceño is not one to personally shy away from the spotlight either. In 2018, The Orange County Register included Briceño on its list of “the top 100 influencers in Orange County.” The next year, Briceño ran unopposed for chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
Briceño’s time in union and progressive activism has been repeatedly linked to controversy. In 2003, both current and former members of Local 681 spoke out against Briceño, calling her leadership style “authoritarian.” A lawsuit filed against Local 681 that year accused the local and specifically Briceño of discrimination, including allegations that Briceño called non-Hispanic employees “gringos” and made plans to “fire” the “fucking old ladies” who worked for the local. UNITE HERE eventually paid $1 million to settle the lawsuit.
The next year, in 2004, thousands of Disneyland and California Adventure workers broke off from Local 681 and formed their own UNITE HERE local in response to Briceño’s failed leadership. The members accused Briceño of denying them “access to financial records,” and slammed her for providing “absolutely no decent representation.” Even worse, Briceño’s re-election as Local 681 president that year was marred by allegations of fraud after “400 votes, mostly from Disneyland and California Adventure workers, were invalidated.” In 2016, Briceño dismissively recounted the opposition to her leadership, explaining “it was mostly all the white folks were against me.”
In 2018, the progressive organizing group OCCORD found itself embroiled in disarray after the nonprofit’s executive director and “nearly half the staff” resigned en masse. OCCORD’s organizers complained the group was “a horrible boss” that overworked its employees. Briceño, who was then serving as OCCORD’s board chair, responded by simply denying “that workers had bad working conditions.” Not only that, the former employees raised concerns that UNITE HERE, OCCORD’s main sponsor, had “too much influence.”
Briceño has a record of extreme union tactics. During her campaign for the presidency of HERE Local 681, way back in 2001, Briceño campaigned on “creating chaos so the companies would listen to us.” In 2008, Briceño was one of 30 people arrested during a UNITE HERE protest against Disney. In 2019, Briceño was among 21 UNITE HERE activists arrested after “they blocked traffic during a protest.”