We’ve always known that UNITE HERE Local 11 has one end goal: Extract as much dues money from unionized hotel workers as possible. Sometimes, this leads Local 11 to oppose projects that otherwise meet the union’s desired workplace standards.
Case in point: West Hollywood’s Robertson Lane hotel project. The West Hollywood City Council has approved the new development, with the overwhelming majority of local speakers coming out in favor of the project. Who opposed it? Local 11. (The union went so far as to launch a petition against part of the project.)
The reasons for its opposition was never clear. Hotel owner Jason Illoulian offered to prioritize the hiring of local workers, pay those workers a minimum wage of $15.37 an hour, and provide them with panic buttons in case of sexual harassment. Readers will recognize that these standards meet or exceed what Local 11 has supported throughout Los Angeles County. (Indeed, the union is currently backing a ballot measure in Rancho Palos Verdes focused on a $15 minimum wage and panic buttons.)
The issue, as always, has to do with the union’s interests rather than employees’. Donald Wilson, Local 11’s chaplain, put it bluntly in describing the union’s stance: “We want union people to maintain the hotel after it’s built.” Other union representatives warned against the perils of “non-union hotel,” and claimed the developer needed to ” take meaningful steps to ensure its future workforce is diverse and treated with dignity, respect, and fairness.”
Put differently, a $15 minimum wage and panic buttons are fine, but what we really want are new union members.
As we’ve covered before, the number of hotels in Los Angeles County has increased by roughly 13 percent since 2006, and hotel industry employment has grown by more than 20 percent. At the same time, Local 11’s membership essentially doubled, increasing from 11,936 to roughly 22,000 members. In a single decade, the union’s assets skyrocketed from about $6.7 million to almost $13 million.
Local 11 officials are determined to continue that trend. Anything else you hear is just smoke and mirrors.