Opinion: WeHo Should Be Wary of Unite Here Local 11’s Growing Influence

Like an uninvited guest, Unite Here Local 11 has arrived in West Hollywood with its own interests in mind rather than its host’s. Residents of WeHo should know what they’re in for.

Local 11 portrays itself as a champion for workers, but in fact the union has a lengthy history of alleged unfair labor practices. Dozens of its own members have filed charges against the union, alleging emotional abuse, threats and pervasive neglect. One union whistleblower recently voiced these concerns in a public video (though he asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation). This whistleblower discussed how the majority of his colleagues opposed the union’s self-serving agenda.

Local 11’s penchant for pushing people around doesn’t stop with its own members. According to the Los Angeles Times, Local 11 has of late been stalking the online wedding registries of soon-to-be brides. The union leaves public messages in the “guestbook” section which aim to discourage these women from holding their weddings at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. Resort president Terri Haack claimed the union “intimidated some groups into canceling events, which costs our employees hours and tips that they will never get back.”

The reason why? Local 11 hopes to pressure the resort into signing a deal that would secure new dues-paying members for the union, weddings—and employee well-being—be damned.

WeHo got a taste of these Terranea-style tactics with the union’s opposition to the Robertson Lane hotel project. The reason for the opposition was never particularly clear: The owner offered to prioritize the hiring of local workers, pay a wage of $15.37 an hour, and provide “panic buttons” for hotel employees. These standards met or exceeded the standards the union has supported throughout Los Angeles County. No matter: Local 11 launched a vicious campaign against the hotel development, suggesting with little evidence that the development was insufficiently respectful of the location’s history.

The union’s interest, as always, was creating a new source of dues-paying members: “We want union people to maintain the hotel after it’s built,” said one Local 11 employee at a WeHo council meeting.

Local 11 has garnered limited support on the WeHo Council, portraying itself as a champion of both workers’ and women’s rights. But the union’s zeal for speaking out against worker abuse was nonexistent when the director of its affiliate—Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE)—stepped down last year amid a sexual misconduct scandal. Local 11 provided support checks and shared office space with CLUE, where female employees alleged that CLUE’s director was “committing wage violations and inappropriately withholding pay” as well as “making inappropriate sexual remarks and inappropriately touching female employees’ breasts and thighs.”

When asked why the alleged misconduct was allowed to go on for so long, one source said: “The board was interested in the photo-ops and not interested in oversight.”

For a supposed-progressive organization, Local 11’s values often contradict those of the communities they organize in. Consider Local 11’s latest contract at the Hilton in Anaheim. The agreement bars the hotel from introducing “programs that allow guests to go without room cleaning for several days.” This means pro-environment policies that enable guests to reuse linens, save energy on vacuuming, and reduce the use of chemicals in the housekeeping process are banned. The missed opportunity is significant: After implementing its Make a Green Choice Program, the Marriott hotel chain “lowered its energy use by 13.2 percent” and lowered its “greenhouse gas emissions by 15.8 percent” in almost 10 years.

The union has been active for years in Santa Monica, and it finally seems to have overstayed its welcome; a survey last year of city voters found that nearly 60% wanted the union to have less influence with City Council. It’s an important word of warning for the City Council in WeHo: When Local 11 comes knocking, don’t answer the door.


23 Comments
  1. Wow! WeHoVille has sold out to the dark side! This is a progressive city with progressive values. This young woman works for the same people whos sole job is to take away the many rights we have fought for. You should be ashamed WeHoVille.

    1. We welcome opinions from all sides on any issue. That’s what freedom of expression is all about!

      1. Dear Hank,

        I’m an old NYC/UPI wire service guy with previous experience at local paper in Peoria, Illinois and Rome, Italy newspapers. It’s disingenuous of you to claim this innocence regarding your publishing of this shill anti-union piece lacking full attribution of the author’s source. Under my UPI desk you would have been fired for this transgression.

        1. As a “wire service guy” I’m guessing you know the difference between a news story and an op-ed or opinion piece, which is what this is and how it was labeled. The opinions are those of the writer, not those of WEHOville. Are they based on fact? Who knows? Opinions, like religion, are rooted in the beliefs of those who hold them, and they are something we welcome all of our readers to debate so long as they are focused on local issues and are about the issues, not the holders of the opinions. That’s what freedom of expression is all about.

  2. I reject any commentary that suggests that WEHOville should limit the opinion pieces submitted by members of the community who have a local interest in what is happening within our borders. An opinion piece such as the one presented is an important part of civil discourse in our little hamlet. However, the author and the organizations she represents are Washington, DC-based lobbying and public relations firms. What I do reject is the use of a local forum for powerful national lobbying organizations which can afford to have young associates write pieces on behalf of the economic interests of the clients they represent. All of my commentary is based on information accessible through the organizaton’s website, and the author’s Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. I hope she spent at least one night in West Hollywood in order to earn her bona fides as someone with an interest in our local issues.

  3. I am certainly a lot more worried about the influence that developers and land use consultants have on our City Council members than Unite Here. The numbers speak for themselves as the rise of “independent expenditure” campaigns funded by developers have kept unresponsive and arrogant incumbents such as John Duran in office.

    D’Amico went from first place position in the last election to third because he managed to alienate his base with his pro-development votes and his embrace of John Duran. Many people were offended by his participation in giving Stormy Daniels the key to the City. Unite Here simply took advantage of voter alienation in this last election and Sepi Shyne happened to be a talented and articulate challenger.

  4. So now, in addition to West Hollywood being home to an aging population of terminally wounded gay people we are supposed to fall in with an anti-union front given prominence without full identification in WeHoville? So much for the progressive city. And what was WeHoville thinking, publishing this fluff piece of propaganda easily uncovered by serious research?

    1. WEHOville publishes, and actually solicits the submission of, opinion pieces from all sides of an issue (even those that criticize WEHOville and those we strongly disagree with.) The writer of this op-ed about Unite Here Local 11 was identified, as all authors are.

    2. What a homophobic comment. Interesting as well because UnitedHereToo is famously homophobic toward any gay people who don’t fit into its narrow box of “helpless victims.” It’s to a real Union what Scientology is to a great religion: a cult propaganda money making machine posing as something else.

      1. Dear Maria (whomever you may be since no surname is given) —

        For the record: My partner and I have been together 39 years (since our 20s) always involved in LGBTQ/feminist issues as activists in Italy and USA (ACT UP/LA, Queer Nation/LA, the latter “founded” in our Silver Lake backyard) as well as anti-Vietnam War and U.S. Central American interventions. I’m also the author (published Italian historical monograph on suicide and reviews incorporating gay critiques, along with frequent letters published in the Gay & Lesbian Review). Check out my twice published article as noted here below, the “Queers in Space” version available in WeHo Library:

        “The Queer Nation Acts Up: Health Care, Politics, and Sexual Diversity in the County of Angels,” Society and Space, v. 10, n. 6 (London, 1992), pp. 609-50; repr. Queers in Space, ed. Gordon Brent Ingram (Seattle: Bay Press, 1997), pp. 233-74. Lambda Literary Award, best anthology 1997. [Reviews: Sexualities Journal, v. 1, n. 3, 1998,; Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review, v. 5, n.1, 1998, pp. 44-5; Gender & Society, v. 12, n. 2, 1998; Theatre Journal, v. 55, n. 3, 2003, pp. 395-412].

        It’s not “homophobic” to note the social/historical composition of so many WeHo gay men who by their own accounts are recovering victims/survivors of homophobia, substance abuse, and worse.

        Ty Geltmaker (feminist who happens to be gay).

  5. Interesting article and comments. I became suspicious a few weeks before the election when I received a glossy campaign card with photos of Lauren, Lindsey and Sepi with a big check next to each name and a photo of John D’Amico with a big X. I couldn’t figure out who this group sending out the card was. Then I found out from many friends that they received phone calls not only endorsing the three women but castigating John D’Amico vehemently, and I was even more surprised. I smelled a rat but didn’t know who it was because Lindsey, Lauren and John were also on information cards together as a unit. I always knew where my loyalty lay (lie?) but some my more innocent and uninformed friends did not and followed the advice of the first card and the nasty phone calls.

  6. “The Center for Union Facts (CUF) is a corporate-backed front group working to dismantle labor and teacher unions across the country, all while neatly disguised as a resource for workers, employees and the public. CUF is the brainchild of notorious PR man-for-hire Richard Berman — appropriately nicknamed Dr. Evil — and is part Berman’s network of non-profits working to advance the interests of Berman’s corporate clients.”

    http://conservativetransparency.org/org/center-for-union-facts/

    Good work here, Hank. Maybe you’ll do a story on how this group is using you as their stooge.

    1. Very confused by your “Good work here, Hank. Maybe you’ll do a story on how this group is using you as their stooge.” comment.

      Why is Hank somehow responsible for the content of an opinion piece offered by a Charlyce Bozzello of CUF?

      This is an opinion piece – I’d hope that readers do their own independent look at any unknown authors before giving much credit to their words.

      Her name and affiliation are clearly stated for the reader to search themselves and easily find that CUF is an anti-labor organization and that Charlyce Bozzello has worked for the Heritage Foundation.

  7. The hotel workers came to my door 2 times in support of Shepi Shyne. One person wanted to fill out my mail in ballot for me and take it with them. They didn’t hit every apartment. I assumed their game plan was going after absentee ballots.
    In previous presidential elections, I had to vote provisional in Los Angeles. A poll worker broke off the ballot in the machine and had me vote again. Several months later I received mailing asking me how I voted. My neighbors and I had to qualify for affordable housing…… so voting shenanigans lead me to believe I’m being used for homestead exemption in another state.

  8. Excellent piece, Charlyce Bozzello! Thank you for this. As a long time resident of West Hollywood I too was growing increasingly worried about this Union’s growing reach and power. I’m happy to see someone state the obvious…”The union’s interest, as always, was creating a new source of dues-paying members.” They tried to extend their reach and puff up their chests with the Robertson Lane project and failed. They tried again with the Arts Club…and failed again. Hopefully they realize that the residents of West Hollywood will not be fooled by their self-proclaimation of “champion for workers” and let’s hope the City Council stops cozying up to them!

  9. Let’s also focus on some numbers, in how they attempted to manipulate this month’s election. These were taken off a chart that Lauren Meister was kind enough to send out in an e-mail blast.

    Contributions they made to candidates:

    – Horvath, $13K
    – Meister, $6.5K
    – Shyne, $16.6K
    – D’Amico, $0K

    Money spent AGAINST D’Amico: $35K! I heard there was also a mis-information campaign against D’Amico. Not sure if this is true, or if the union was behind it, but it sounds suspect.

    All due respect to Shyne, but does anyone wonder why D’Amico went from 1st position to 3rd since the last election, and only beat Shyne by 140 votes? The union represented 100% of Shyne’s independent expenditures supporting her, or 71% of her total campaign budget of $23K.

    Ms. Meister’s entire campaign budget was $48K. Shyne’s was $23K. D’Amico’s was $80K.

    This union spent $71K trying to manipulate this election, more than two of the leading candidates entire campaign budgets.

    The numbers are right here:

    http://laurenmeister.nationbuilder.com/thank_you_weho_we_did_it

    1. This is inaccurate. IE spending is separate from the fund raised by Sepi’s campaign, and 23k is not Sepi’s final fundraising number.

      1. I understand that these numbers are not final. It says as of February 16. What are the final numbers, if you have them?

        My point is still the same. This union was trying to manipulate this election. By spending more money than any person, or any entity.

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