Last September, then Councilmember (now Mayor) Phil Brock made an unforced error when he introduced a motion aimed at reducing the impact that the Unite Here! Local 11 Union, the local service workers union, could have in its protests. The motion would have limited both the hours and noise volume compared to what is in current law. It was backed by neighbors who blamed the union for the disruptions the strike was causing their lives and opposed by free speech advocates and of course unions themselves.

In the face of dozens of comment cards and estimates ranging upwards of 200 union members in the council chambers; Brock backed down and removed the ordinance from the agenda. He vowed to bring it back, but weeks later the Council passed a different noise ordinance that didn’t even mention the unions.

Last night, the Council played one of its lamest hits, as the noise ordinance aimed at Local 11 was back on the agenda. Unite Here members were joined in solidarity by members of other unions including the Teamsters, NUHW, WGA, SEIU 2015, IBEW and others. Brock pulled the motion again. Union members again flooded public comment with stories of their work, their lives and on the picket lines.

Another unforced error.

But getting the Council to back down was a minor victory compared to Unite Here’s major victory. The hotel worker’s union announced that it had reached agreement with 34 hotels in Southern California. Members still need to vote to ratify tentative labor agreements, and Local 11 expects a final announcement this week.

“We have won an unprecedented agreement in every way, from wages, pension, and healthcare to job security, to fair staffing guarantees.  But our members’ tenacity and fearlessness is even more impressive. No one has fought harder to win a living wage, sacrificing pay and overcoming physical violence and abuse than room attendants, cooks and servers. They are  heroes,” said Kurt Petersen, co-president of Local 11. 

“And this dogged determination should signal to the rest that we will not stop until every worker has won the same magnificent contract.”

That “dogged determination” means that the issue of when picket lines can be organized will continue to be a hot one in Santa Monica. There are still dozens of hotels across the region that have not reached agreement with the union including five in Santa Monica. These hotels are:

  • The Courtyard Marriott
  • The Hampton Inn and Suites
  • Le Meridien Delfina
  • Proper Hotel
  • The Viceroy

And of course, any change to the noise ordinance could impact other strikes and demonstrations, Unite Here isn’t the only major union in town. In fact, food service workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education services assistants, health office specialists and other essential education workers at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) will march and picket at Samohi to demand more staffing for student services, livable wages for school workers, and no layoffs on Thursday after school.

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