Slow Pandemic Recovery Puts Local 11’s Financial Responsibility in Question

Data recently released from Unite Here Local 11’s financial filings with the Department of Labor reveals that Local 11 has been struggling to bounce back post-pandemic compared to some of its Unite Here counterparts in California. It appears Local 11’s typical strategy of bloated leadership salaries, dues hikes, and payments to its favorite front groups isn’t a recipe for financial success.

Compared to Unite Here locals in San Francisco (Local 2) and San Diego (Local 30), Local 11 racked up more debt and had poorer membership growth, all while increasing the cost of dues payments and giving its leadership pay increases.

Local 11 co-president Ada Briceño’s salary increased by 10.5 percent from 2021 to 2022. In 2021, Briceño’s gross salary was $118,005 and in 2022, it increased to $130,431. Co-president Kurt Petersen also saw a substantial pay increase of nearly 16 percent. In 2021, Petersen’s gross salary was $116,587 and it jumped to $135,122 in 2022. Susan Minato — another co-president — was also given a similar salary increase as Kurt Peterson. Minato was paid $116,587 in 2021 and $135,122 in 2022.

Ada Briceño 2022 Salary:

Kurt Peterson 2022 Salary:

Susan Minato 2022 Salary:

By contrast, Local 2 in San Francisco gave its president a modest 1.4% salary increase in 2022. 

Local 2 2021:

Local 2 2022:

Salary bumps aren’t just for senior leadership positions at Unite Here Local 11. The daughter of Kurt Petersen – Hannah Petersen – was also given a salary increase in 2022. She was previously a “salt” for the union before making it onto the payroll — a practice whereby unions get one of their own hired at a targeted employer, to assist with organizing efforts from inside the company.

Hannah Peterson was given about a seven percent pay increase from 2021 to 2022.

Petersen 2021 Pay:

Petersen 2022 Pay:

In 2022, Local 11 continued to make payments to some of its favorite front groups. The union gave $77,000 to the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) and $95,500 to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). 

Payments to CLUE (2022):

Payments to LAANE (2022):

True to form, the union also increased dues payments from a maximum of $80.50 per month to $85.50. Initiation fees also increased from a maximum of $161 to a maximum of $171. Factoring in Local 11’s 25% increase in membership, this resulted in the union collecting about 50% more in dues from members in 2022 – for a total of $14 million

But hiking up dues payments to make up for a moderate increase in membership isn’t a sign of success. Consider Local 2 and Local 30, which reported membership increases of 78% and 41% in 2022, respectively. Local 2’s overall dues collection increased by almost 120%. Local 30’s increased by almost 50%. And neither union raised the cost of membership dues in 2022.

Overall, Local 2 and Local 30 also ended 2022 on much firmer financial ground than Local 11. Local 2 saw a drop in its total liabilities in 2022, while Local 30 maintained a moderate rate of debt. Local 11 already had liabilities amounting to $6 million at the beginning of 2022. By the end of the year, that had increased to almost $9 million.

Local 11’s membership remains a far cry from the almost 32,000 members the union reported before the pandemic. It’s no wonder, given the union seems to prioritize higher dues for members, consistent and substantial raises for leadership, and payouts to its favorite front groups. Perhaps workers are starting to see the union as an irresponsible steward of their hard-earned dues dollars.