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At La Playa Hotel Workers Rally, the Question "Is this Working?" is Answered
by Alex Darocy ( alex [at] alexdarocy.com )
Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
After more than a dozen labor demonstrations at La Playa Carmel this summer following the announcement of a boycott of the hotel, community members had new answers to the question, "Is this working?" At the most recent workers rally at the hotel, held on September 28, Mark Weller of UNITE HERE Local 483, the hospitality union that represents workers in the Monterey Bay area, cited the recent contract approval negotiated for workers at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley as a victory for La Playa workers also. Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker agreed. "When we see what happened this week at Quail Lodge...we know it takes time, but we get there in the end," she said during a brief speech at the rally.
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The September 28 rally at La Playa Carmel began with a small group of marchers making their way around the hotel. By the time the group returned to the front lobby's entrance, more community members arrived to join the demonstration, which then swelled to the size of 50-75 people. As with all of the summer actions, a circular picket line was formed in front of the lobby, and La Playa hotel management was on hand to assist guests in navigating their way through the demonstrators and on to the inside of the hotel.

The demonstrations have had a demonstrable impact. Many guests accept the boycott information demonstrators hand out, and appear interested in what is going on, and several prospective hotel guests over the course of the summer's demonstrations have changed plans after arriving during the labor actions.

Communication between La Playa's management and the former workers has been spotty, though. Only three of the 113 former workers have been rehired so far. La Playa workers lost their jobs last November when the hotel changed ownership and closed for remodeling. Many of the former workers, half of whom worked at the hotel for over 20 years, applied for their former jobs back and never received interviews. Workers were terminated across the board at La Playa; food servers, bartenders, housekeepers, as well as those behind the scenes in the laundry department and in the accounting department, were all let go.

Workers first lost their union contract in 2010, during the previous ownership, which ended 40 years of union protection at La Playa. A common perception among many community members is that La Playa's new owner, Sam Grossman (of Grossman Company Properties), was making an attempt at union busting when the former workers were denied the first right of refusal when the hotel was refilling their former jobs, and then when so few of them were hired back after the re-opening. When the situation was explained to one Carmel resident passing by a La Playa labor demonstration in July, her reaction was, "Ohhhh, they [management] are cleaning house."

Beginning in June, at least two unsuccessful attempts were made by demonstrators to deliver to La Playa's management petitions containing the signatures of over 1000 Monterey area residents demanding that the former workers be rehired. The local general manager at La Playa would not accept the petitions, and she suggested the group contact the hotel's upper management. La Playa is managed from afar by Classic Hotels & Resorts, which is a Phoenix, Arizona based subsidiary of Grossman Company Properties.

In contrast, negotiations with Quail Lodge's management went smoothly, even though its parent company isn't based locally. Quail Lodge is located in Carmel Valley and is owned by the company Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels, but negotiations for the new contract were made directly between the hotel's local general manager and the secretary/treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 483, Leonard O'Neill, with no attorneys present. The new agreement increases workers' wages and benefits by $5 per hour over the life of the contract, and it applies to the 40 individuals currently working at the restaurant, as well as those who will work in the hotel portion of Quail Lodge when it re-opens in April of 2013. The five-year contract applies through 2017, and if the hotel is sold, the new owners would be bound to honor it as part of the new agreement.

Near the end of the September 28th rally, UNITE HERE Local 483's projects coordinator Mark Weller summed up the significance of the continued actions at La Playa:

"People are asking, is this working? This is a fight not just for La Playa workers to get their jobs back, but for the entire labor movement, for the entire hospitality industry in the Monterey Bay. I just want to let you know this has wide reaching effects. Maybe some of you saw that Quail Lodge earlier in the week signed a contract for the re-opening of their hotel. They didn't want this over there. So this is a victory and we will continue to fight here until we get the victory for all of the La Playa workers."

Shortly before Weller's statement, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mark Stone spoke about the connection between La Playa and the current national discussion about jobs, and why in the Monterey Bay area, where tourism is one of the primary industries, it is important to prevent hotels from eliminating long term workers as a way to usher in new employees at low wages.

"If you listen to the rhetoric nationwide and state wide, it's all about jobs," Stone said. "But what about your jobs? What about well paying jobs, jobs where people have been here for 20 years, 30 years, and you have been cast out onto the streets, that's not the kind of jobs we want to talk about, low paying jobs taking advantage of workers who've dedicated their lives to a facility like this. This is a shame in the middle of Carmel."


Unite Here plans to hold demonstrations at La Playa Carmel indefinitely until all of the former workers are offered their jobs back. The next events at the hotel are scheduled for Friday, October 5 and Saturday, October 13 at 8am and Wednesday, October 17 at 4:30pm.

For more information about the boycott of La Playa Carmel, see:
http://www.laplayahotelunfair.org/

For more information about Unite Here Local 483, the labor union that has represented hotel and restaurant workers in Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties since 1937, see:
http://www.unitehere483.org/


Alex Darocy
http://alexdarocy.blogspot.com/
§Mark Stone, Santa Cruz County Supervisor
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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Mark Stone, Santa Cruz County Supervisor and candidate for California State Assembly in District 29.
http://friendsofmarkstone.org/
§Jane Parker, Monterey County Supervisor
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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§Introducing the La Playa Workers
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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§La Playa Carmel
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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§Justice For La Playa Workers
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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§La Playa Carmel Destroys Tradition
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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§Mark Stone
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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§Alan Haffa, Monterey City Council Candidate
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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Alan Haffa, Monterey City Council Candidate.
http://electhaffa.org/
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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§La Playa Carmel Guests Arriving
by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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Police were attempting to get demonstrators to stay on the sidewalk.
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by Alex Darocy Tuesday Oct 2nd, 2012 8:32 PM
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Police were attempting to get demonstrators to stay on the sidewalk.