Brock Pulls Back Motion on Unite Here! Protests After Strong Union Turnout at Council Meeting

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Last night, the Santa Monica City Council punted on a motion to curtail the strike activities of Unite Here! Local 11 and a couple of other controversial motions. However, the 11th hour change to the agenda on the controversial union motion didn’t stop dozens of activists and hospitality workers from venting at the proposal put forward by Councilmembers Phil Brock and Lana Negrete that would have limited the hours they could protest and what they could use to make noise…much to the Councilmembers discomfort.

The controversial motion was ostensibly about noise pollution and included language about nightclubs and transportation. However, Brock made it clear in an interview with the Santa Monica Lookout that the issue was really about the union’s early morning protests outside of the Fairamont-Miramar and Viceroy hotels.

In yesterday’s edition, “Council Tackles Noise Issue,” Brock explained how the motion was really an attempt to curtail noise complaints directed at Unite Here! Activities.

“I’m getting letters and emails every day the protesters are there,” Brock said. “We’re having huge issues with this. The complaints are going up.”

He continued:

“They think they’re stopping the hotels from doing business. They’ve disrupted weddings,” Brock said.

As one would expect, the Union and its members were not happy. Unite Here! set up a booth outside City Hall to hand out information and to prepare members to testify at the meeting. Faced with a room full of opposition, Brock pulled the portions of the motion that addressed the complaints against the union claiming that the late hour, it was after 9:30 when the motion was heard, would make it inconvenient for workers who had to arrive early to work the next morning if they had to stay and testify.

If the motion was pulled permanently, then it was a victory for the union. If it was just pulled last night to be returned at a later date as an unwanted courtesy to the workers present, it was a monumental failure. Nearly four dozen activists and workers still spoke against the motion, and specifically the anti-union language, after it was modified.

After a half-dozen people testified against the portion of the motion that was withdrawn, Brock and the legislation co-sponsor Lana Negrete attempted to silence the speakers noting the item was no-longer on the agenda.

“Usually we would stop people,” said Brock of people speaking on items not on the agenda. Brock eventually proposed a compromise where workers could discuss the experiences of the violence committed against them without testifying against the now-withdrawn legislation he authored. Eventually, public comment resumed with more speakers commenting directly on the motion. Eventually, the Council suspended the rules so that the people that waited for hours to testify could still speak.

Those testifying seemed especially frustrated that the Council as-a-whole has not made a statement on the violent actions taken against picketing union members in Santa Monica and yet they had to come to the Council to justify their non-violent actions.

“We have no idea what’s being done about the violence that goes on against workers that are on strike. “ said Unite Here! Member, Hermana Escorba  through an interpreter.

The first motion to fall was Item 16C, a motion proposed and ultimately pulled by Councilmember Phil Brock, would have opposed state legislation that streamlines the process to build multi-family housing. The State Senate and Assembly have already passed the legislation and it awaits the governor’s signature.

Item 16E, that was covered at Santa Monica Next earlier this week, would have examined ways to change Santa Monica’s culture of allowing vehicles to park in the bicycle lane. The item was not pulled from the agenda, but was postponed until the following meeting on September 26.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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