Local 11 Ballot Campaign Fudges Numbers, Highlights Overtime Pay Hypocrisy

UNITE HERE Local 11 recently submitted 46,000 signatures to the Long Beach city clerk in support of a ballot initiative that would boost overtime pay for hotel workers and mandate panic buttons to protect them from sexual harassment. The initiative would apply to all hotels with more than 50 employees.

There are just a few problems. First, Local 11’s signature gathering has come under intense scrutiny, as onlookers have accused union-affiliated organizers of failing to explain the initiative in its entirety, while also using misleading numbers to exaggerate the issue of sexual harassment. One petition gatherer, for example, promoted a sign with the claim that “80 percent of hotel maids in Long Beach have been assaulted.”

Yet only two such incidents have been reported in recent years. A police memo from last year stated that, from September 2016 to August 2017, hotel employees reported two assaults, one of which involved battery of a male security guard. Given that there are roughly 4,000 hotel workers in Long Beach, the proper figure is below one percent, rather than Local 11’s outrageous 80 percent claim.

Another provisions is a boost in overtime pay, a benefit that Local 11 has a history of denying to its organizers. As we’ve covered before, a Labor Department investigation found that, from 2006 to 2008, Local 11 “Field Organizers” were “misclassified as administratively exempt employees and were not compensated for their overtime hours.” According to the investigator’s write-up, a “total of $192,334.14 for 29 organizers was found due.” The union “refused to pay or comply,” sticking to its claim that their employees were exempt from overtime rules.

Union members may find themselves on the outside looking in this time around as well. As in Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica, Local 11 is supporting a union carve-out for the overtime and other work-related provisions, exempting hotels who have reached a collective bargaining agreement with the union. In other words, the union is pursuing a legal loophole just to gain a stronger foothold in the hotel industry—and greater access to dues revenue.

You know the deal with Local 11: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.