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Boycott in Carmel: La Playa Hotel Siege, Day One
Former workers, and their union representatives from Unite Here Local 483, followed up the July 6th announcement of the boycott of La Playa Carmel with a two-day "siege" of the hotel on July 20th and 21st. Demonstrations were held continuously from 7am to 7pm on both days in order to send a strong message to the public to boycott the hotel until management rehires the over 100 workers who lost their jobs after the recent change in ownership and subsequent remodeling of the facilities.
The first day of the siege, Friday, July 20th, saw a large and continuous turnout of demonstrators throughout the day. Though the picket line was small at times, it swelled to as much as 50 people during several peaks, and there was always a line of people actively walking past the front entrance of the La Playa lobby shouting union chants or singing. A security guard and at least one member of hotel management were also present in front of the hotel at all times during the siege to help guests who wanted to enter La Playa's lobby. When doing so, they had to walk through a moving line of people chanting union slogans and carrying picket signs and noisemakers. When cars passing by in front of the hotel slowed or stopped, the hotel manager would walk up to their vehicle and ask if they needed assistance entering the hotel. Many who stopped weren't planning on staying at the hotel, they were just curious about the commotion.
Demonstrators offered informational fliers about the La Playa boycott to everyone who entered the hotel, and if guests decided they still wanted to check in after receiving the information, the group of demonstrators would often chant in unison, "shame on you!" or "don't check in, check out!" Many guests were happy to receive the boycott flier, and at least one car containing four people decided to leave and cancel their stay at the hotel when they were informed about what was going on with the labor struggles there.
Demonstrators noted that hotel management was very friendly and polite to them at the start of the day, but eventually all smiles from the staff were gone, and a balanced tension remained between the two "sides" until the police were called later. Three Carmel Police Department patrol vehicles arrived at the hotel shortly before 4pm. After meeting with hotel management, police spoke with a union organizer who was serving in a leadership position at the demonstration, and they informed him that management claimed that a group of demonstrators had approached an arriving guest's car en mass and shouted "go away." The Unite Here organizer said that maybe those in the car were offered a flier, but that groups of demonstrators were not approaching guests, and that he would be there to monitor the group, and he gave the police his phone number in case they wanted to contact him.
It is possible that the car in question arrived while one of the group's chants was in progress. One chant they recited periodically during the day contained the statement, "They say go away, we say no way," which is a reference to the resistance of union busting practices. The officer was reassured that that specific union organizer was "in charge" and the two had some familiarity with each other.
The picket line was never halted in any way, and Carmel Police left without incident. The remainder of day one of the siege ended with concluding remarks from Unite Here Local 483 organizers and a former long-term La Playa employee briefly described her experience of re-applying for a job at the hotel and not receiving an interview.
The demonstration was visited by several local politicians. California State Assembly Member from the 28th district, Luis A. Alejo marched the picket line and sang with workers. Also marching and singing was Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker and the Mayor of the City of Marina, Bruce Delgado.
La Playa Hotel is located near the beach in the middle of a residential area in Carmel-by-the-sea, and reactions from close neighbors and other Carmel residents to the twelve hour siege were mixed. One woman became enraged that workers would try to tell the new La Playa owner, Sam Grossman, what to do with his business. One neighbor across the street from La Playa on Camino Real, however, went through great measures to support the workers; he lent them the front yard of his home to be used as a staging area for the demonstration. Clay Ramsay contacted Unite Here out of the blue asking if he could help the workers because they had been very helpful to his parents who had lived in the Carmel home until they passed away.
A letter from Ramsay was available for distribution, and read:
You may be visiting Carmel; you may live here; or maybe you live someplace else on the Monterey Peninsula. I invited Unite Here's people to make use of my driveway, across the street from La Playa, to help them exercise their rights of free speech and assembly.
This house was my deceased parents' retirement home, which I'm keeping. As my parents got into their late seventies, La Playa employees were part of their support system.
They watched out for my parents. They saw them in the early morning, when my father bought newspapers at the front desk and chatted, and late at night, when they brought over takeout meals my parents sometimes ordered. Yep, they got room service.
After my father passed on, my mother always felt reassured and more secure because of the familiar faces of La Playa staff- many of whom had been there 20-30 years. Some of the people you see around you likely helped my father and mother directly. Most of them definitely helped my parents indirectly, by keeping an institution going that they loved and were happy to live next to.
The La Playa staff are people- not commodities to be thrown away- and they are still my neighbors.
They will tell you what their grievances are. They can speak very well for themselves.
If you're staying at La Playa, I know you can't just immediately change your plans. What you can do is open your eyes and ears, and tell others afterward.
Until the management of La Playa has some other focus than its relentless feud to bust a union, it's probably not going to give you great service.
Thanks for reading!
For more information about the boycott of La Playa Carmel, see:
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:
Mama, Mama, can't you see?
What Sam Grossman has done to me
I used to be a human being
Now I'm out here on the street
California State Assembly Member from the 28th district, Luis A. Alejo can be seen marching the picket line and singing with workers.
Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker can be seen marching with demonstrators.
In front of a home on 8th Avenue, across from the La Playa lobby.
The new owner of La Playa Carmel is Sam Grossman of Santa Monica.
Justice for La Playa Workers
Clay Ramsay offered the front yard of his home to workers and demonstrators.
Sergio Rangel, President of Unite Here Local 483 tidies up the information area.
California State Assembly Member from the 28th district, Luis A. Alejo with union organizers, taking a group photo.
Assembly Member Lous A. Alejo
Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker
Mayor of Marina, Bruce Delgado
In the middle of the street, hotel management speaks with people who were staying across 8th Avenue from La Playa.
Carmel Police Department
Lovers walk along the beach, just a couple of blocks away from La Playa Hotel in Carmel.