Hotel Workers Union, Increasing Its Focus on West Hollywood, Is Engaging Local Political Figures to Help

West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath, fourth from left, with Unite
Here Local 11 members and organizers inside the Hyatt Andaz.

Unite Here Local 11, the hotel and restaurant workers union, is continuing its focus on West Hollywood, a city full of hotels whose economy is heavily dependent on visitors and whose hotel room tax is the largest contributor to the city’s General Fund.

And the union is engaging local political figures to support it.

Unite Here is staging a “respect, not handcuffs” rally tomorrow at the Hyatt Andaz hotel on Sunset Boulevard to protest the arrest on March 6 of union organizer Nerexda Soto. According to a Facebook post, City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath and Sepi Shyne, a candidate in the March 5 City Council election, will be attending the protest. (However, Horvath said today she is at the National League of Cities conference in Washington, DC, and won’t be able to attend). Also listed as attending is Amanda Hyde, a close associate of Horvath’s and chair of the city’s Women’s Advisory Board.  In the Facebook post about the event, John Erickson indicates that he is interested in the event. Erickson recently was appointed by Councilmember John Heilman to the city’s Planning Commission and has said he is contemplating running for City Council in November 2020.

A week ago Wednesday Soto was inside the hotel talking with union employees when managers asked her to leave. When she refused, hotel managers called the Sheriff’s Department, which sent deputies who handcuffed her and arrested her.  In an announcement of tomorrow’s demonstration, Unite Here said it has filed an unfair labor practice charge with Region 31 of the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that the hotel management had unlawfully limited Soto’s access rights. “Union organizers have the right to access employee areas during working hours under the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the hotel,” said the union, “and Soto was in the hotel’s employee cafeteria to speak with workers. Soto, a barista at the Hyatt Long Beach, is on a leave of absence from her hotel to work as a union organizer.”

The Facebook post announces the rally as taking place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Andaz, which is at 8401 W. Sunset Blvd.  The union’s emailed announcement describes the event as an “all-day” action from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a special program at 5 p.m.

Tomorrow’s demonstration follows a brief encounter on Friday between more than a dozen union members and organizers and Sepi Shyne with Nate Hardesty, who took over as general manager of the Andaz three months ago.  Hardesty, who pointed out that he wasn’t involved in the union’s effort to renegotiate its contract with the Andaz, said he supported the union members’ legal rights to meet and to organize and was working to ensure that other employees did. “We have launched a training program to make sure all manager follow union laws and rules,” he said.

The Hyatt Andaz is one of 24 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties whose contracts with the union were expiring.  As of last week, United Here said it had successfully renegotiated all but eight of those contracts.

Unite Here Local 11 has become increasingly involved in West Hollywood.  The union launched an unsuccessful effort to block construction of the Robertson Lane hotel and shopping plaza project.  It was successful in getting  on  the March 5 ballot a measure to affirm the City Council’s approval of the Arts Club on Sunset Boulevard, but it failed to get enough “no” votes to have the approval rescinded.  Steve Martin, a lawyer who is a former City Council member, worked with the Unite Here PAC to oppose the Arts Club. The union also is working to have on a future ballot proposal to declare a 24-month moratorium on new hotel construction in West Hollywood.

Unite Here formed a political action committee that was a major spender in the March 5 West Hollywood City Council election.  It spent $16,644 to support Sepi Shyne, $13,218 to support Lindsey Horvath and $6,569 to support Lauren Meister’s campaign. Both Horvath and Meister supported the construction of the Arts Club, which United Here opposed. The PAC’s biggest expenditure was the $34,905 to fight John D’Amico’s re-election, although D’Amico also was a supporter of the Arts Club, which was opposed only by Councilmember John Heilman.

  1. I to, am confused. I fully support their right to organize and to see if the local hotel workers want to unionize. But I don’t understand their attempts at trying to interfere in local development issues here in West Hollywood. Are they residents? I don’t think so and while I’m always open to hear anyone’s thoughts on…anything…in our City, they have gone well beyond. Their paid signature gatherers and door to door people not only didn’t know the issues, had never been to a council or commission meeting, but they also flat out lied in what they presented to the public. Their intentions weren’t even close to being honorable.

  2. During the WeHo City Council elections I watched representatives of this union sneak into the building I live in (while garage gate was opened for residents’ cars), argue about leaving, continued attempting to enter private building, knocked on my door at 8 p.m. on two nights asking to speak with me about election and who to vote for -even though I wouldn’t open door. I considered this overly aggressive and practically harassment.

  3. Lindsey using the Union money for higher office. So is Sepi. The union will ruin our city. West Hollywood already pays highest wages and protects human rights and worker rights. They will bring organized crime and control the political process while the rest of the idiots are crying about development the union is trying to usurp our city and quality of life.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Thankfully, they’ve been stopped twice on 2 projects but they seem laser focused on West Hollywood. They are bullies.

      Thank you for pointing out that the former councilman Steve Martin was hired by them. I noticed him consistently championing Unite Here but wasn’t aware he was on the payroll.

  4. Hi Hank, I was surprised to read above:

    “Steve Martin, a lawyer who is a former City Council member, worked with the Unite Here PAC to oppose the Arts Club”

    can you clarify at all the nature of Steve’s relationship with the Unite Here PAC? Was he doing paid work of any kind? If so it seems to me Wehoville and/or Steve should have disclosed that fact somewhere in his opinion piece (

    1. I stated that Martin was paid by the union to oppose the Arts Club several times in the comment section of his opinion piece. He wasn’t acting just as a concerned citizen…he was paid to oppose the ARTS CLUB and encourage others to do the same. He never denied it…but never disclosed it either.

    2. I can. I agreed with Unite Here Local 11 that this was a bad deal for West Hollywood and my relationship with the Union was as a local volunteer. You can check the reports when they are filed but I think most people in West Hollywood know that I am not for sale. Frankly I think folks should have a more balanced view; no one seems to mind that the Arts Club spend something like $600,000 to win the vote.

      Steve Martin

      1. Thanks for your reply Steve. Sure, merely volunteering on a union campaign doesn’t require a disclosure, it’s only a paid organizer or employee who I would expect to state their relationship when writing an opinion piece here.

        Re: money in this last election; I think we can only hope that with developer and union dollars being spent in ever greater amounts – on lobbying, referenda, contributions, and independent expenditures – our electeds can keep the focus on the short and long-term merits to the public.

      2. So Steve, I get and agree with your position on the Arts Club as did John Heilman but are you qualified to answer the question below?

        1. JF; I was never on anyone’s payroll, including Unite Here.
          Larger Pointer; this seems like a response to what the Union thought was strong arm tactics by management, nothing more and nothing less. So I don’t see this incident as part of a larger movement by Unite Here. I do see that Unite Here has taken on two major developers and has caused people to question some of the City Council’s decisions but I am not privy to any grand plan on the part of the union. I am not trying to be evasive but I really don’t know; I just happened to agree with them on the Arts Club and find the Andaz reaction a bit heavy handed.
          Steve Martin

  5. So other than the arrest, what is the Union trying to accomplish with this rally and beyond? ? What was Soto’s mission when she refused to leave and was thus arrested?

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