The union campaign to rescind the City Council’s approval of the Robertson Lane project is getting heated, with those soliciting signatures for a petition on behalf of Unite Here Local 11 being accused of claiming they have the Council’s support and of underpaying the canvassers working for them.
Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who notes that Unite Here, which represents hotel and restaurant workers, is paying its canvassers $12 an hour, less than the $13.25 an hour minimum wage that will take effect in the City of Los Angeles on Sunday and less than the minimum wage it lobbied for in West Hollywood. Andrew Cohen, the press secretary for United Here, disagrees and has told WEHOville that the canvassers are paid $15 an hour.
“As supporters of Robertson Lane, the Chamber finds this level of hypocrisy particularly troubling considering Unite’s Here’s claims of supporting worker rights in West Hollywood, considering they are paying below the minimum wage they pushed for in West Hollywood a couple years go,” Morrill said in a statement provided to WEHOville. “This is in keeping with the previously mentioned UNITE’s practice of asking for exemptions to minimum wage laws at the expense of their own members. https://reason.com/blog/2016/04/11/some-la-unionized-hotel-workers-realize
The manager of one apartment building and several West Hollywood residents also have complained to WEHOville that Unite Here’s canvassers are falsely claiming they have the support of the City Council.
In April, Unite Here threatened to put on the Nov. 8 general election ballot an item that would force the City Council to rescind its approval of Robertson Lane, if the Council actually agreed to let the project move forward. The Council approved the hotel, restaurant and retail project on June 4 in a 4 to 1 vote, with Councilmember Lauren Meister opposing it.
To get the measure rescinding the Council’s decision on the general election ballot, United Here will have to obtain signatures of 10% of the city’s 26,000 registered voters, and a majority of the voters on Nov. 8 would have to approve it.
Faring, the developer of Robertson Lane, has responded to the Unite Here campaign with its own street campaign. Faring canvassers are on city sidewalks, asking people to sign a document rescinding their approval of the Unite Here ballot measure. Their campaign is called “Save the Factory.”
The gist of United Here’s argument against Robertson Lane is that the project won’t properly take note of the history of The Factory, which spans part of the land between Robertson Boulevard and La Peer on which the Robertson Lane project will be built. Erected in 1929, The Factory building has connections to both motion picture history and LGBT history. Between 1929 and 1946, the building was the home of the Mitchell Motion Picture Camera factory, one of the early makers of motion picture cameras. Between 1974 and 1992, the building was the site of the large Studio One nightclub, a famous dance club which catered primarily to gay patrons.
Faring initially proposed to demolish the building. However, in response to complaints from advocates for preservation, it agreed to save most of The Factory building and commemorate the gay history of Studio One. United Here, however, claims that Faring’s plans don’t adequately call out The Factory’s history of discrimination against African-American people and lesbians.
Faring has said that it actually does plan to call out both the positive and negative aspects of The Factory’s history. In an environmental impact report submitted to the city as part of its application for approval of Robertson Lane, Faring states its intention to put together an oral history project “addressing the history and varied experiences of visiting the nightclub.” It also plans an “on-site interpretation and commemoration of the building’s significant association with LGBTQ history, culture and equality in West Hollywood.”