CLUE: Local 11’s Less-Than-Holy Allies

“Commit to patronizing only union hotels.” Shop at “union grocery stores.”

You’d be forgiven if you thought such rhetoric came from UNITE HERE Local 11, whose goal is to vilify non-union employers. But it actually comes from a Southern California activist group called Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE).

Don’t be fooled: These aren’t just enlightened pastors and rabbis taking to the streets of Los Angeles. CLUE is an appendage of Local 11’s organizing apparatus, effectively acting as a union front group to promote Local 11’s interests. Since 2010, Local 11 has donated more than $605,000 in member dues to CLUE, which organizes rowdy rallies and disruptive protests to increase union membership and, by extension, the dues revenue that supports CLUE’s activities.

Local 11, CLUE, and Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)—a CLUE ally and another member of Local 11’s organizing apparatus—even share the same Los Angeles address. That’s one unholy alliance.

Not surprisingly, CLUE is a frequent guest at Local 11’s hotel pickets. Earlier this year, the group joined one of the union’s infamous bullhorn protests at the JW Marriot Le Mergiot in Santa Monica. In 2016, CLUE disturbed guests at Santa Monica’s Shore Hotel. The group’s modus operandi is to exploit religion to achieve union objectives: That same year, CLUE performed the Stations of the Cross at a Long Beach hotel to boost Local 11’s organizing push, calling it a “powerful Christian ritual.” (Perhaps CLUE also believes card-check organizing is a Christian ritual.)

Last year, a CLUE demonstration led to 35 arrests of clergy members and civil rights activists after they blocked a roadway and “[refused] to comply with police commands.” The group’s most infamous moment came in 2006, when roughly 400 protesters were arrested for participating in sit-ins at the Hilton Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the nearby Westin Hotel. At the time, a LAANE spokesman called the arrests “a historic event for the city.”

Well, that’s certainly one way of putting it. CLUE is also known for organizing protests near private residences of interest, disturbing families and local neighborhoods alike. In 2013, the group helped organize a 400-person protest near the home of Tribune Company board chairman Bruce Karsh as he was mulling the sale of the Los Angeles Times and Tribune Company newspapers.

There’s a long tradition of clergy activity in social justice causes, but CLUE has apparently crossed the line from faith-inspired activism to union-inspired troublemaking.