Local 11 Front Group in Orange County in Turmoil

It looks like Unite Here Local 11’s front group Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) is in hot water.

Eyes on 11 received a letter sent this morning from the group’s chairwoman Ada Briceño (who has her own sordid past) in which she explains that “over the past few weeks, several of OCCORD’s employees have resigned,” including its Executive Director, Shakeel Syed. The letter hints at a potentially-toxic work environment inside the organization:

Our assessment is that the organization is in compliance with our rules and regulations. However, we are deeply committed to ensuring a supportive environment for the people who keep the crucial work of OCCORD moving ahead. Please know that we will take whatever steps are needed to make OCCORD’s work truly sustainable for our staff and our community.

The letter states that OCCORD is in a “time of transition,” though it neglects to specify what exactly sparked these seemingly abrupt changes. Until the organization finds new, permanent leadership, longtime Unite Here Local 11 organizer Margarita Valenzuela has been named Interim Executive Director.

Local 11 has made a significant investment in OCCORD; Department of Labor data tracks over $600,000 to the group over the past decade, through which it has become a key weapon in the union’s organizing apparatus. This isn’t the first time one of Local 11’s front groups has hit rough waters; last year, CLUE (Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice) saw its Executive Director step down in response to allegations of workplace harassment.

OCCORD’s Board claims to be “engaged in a process of understanding and addressing the reasons for this turnover;” if Local 11’s public silence after the CLUE allegations is any indication, they may be trying to sweep the controversy under the rug. We will be investigating further into what sort of inner turmoil could have triggered so many resignations. If you have any information, you can also send us a confidential note through this form.