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Grand Opening Boycott Rally at La Playa Hotel was Summer's Largest Protest in Carmel
Former La Playa Carmel workers who lost their jobs after the hotel was purchased by Sam Grossman have held a dozen or so rallies over the course of the summer, vowing to continue the actions until they are offered their jobs back. The grand opening boycott rally at La Playa on August 1 saw the strongest turnout of them all. Approximately 150-200 community members picketed the hotel for its refusal to rehire the former workers. Afterward, demonstrators marched up Ocean Avenue, the main tourist destination and shopping drag in Carmel-by-the-Sea, to Devendorf Park where a lampooning of La Playa's "Grand Dame" symbolism was enacted in a street theater style skit by members of the workers' union, Unite Here Local 483.
The boycott of La Playa was announced in early July by Unite Here and the workers, and union members from as far away as Las Vegas attended the August 1 grand opening rally. Only three of 113 workers who lost their jobs have been rehired since the hotel's re-opening. Workers from a wide variety of Carmel and Monterey County hotels made up the majority of those participating in the demonstration, and one individual reported that at least 50 of his co-workers from the nearby Hyatt were present.
August 1 was designated by the hotel's management as its "official" grand opening date, and a press release for the event quoted Matt Crow, the CEO of Classic Hotels & Resorts, as saying, “When you are working with a storied property, one that means so much to the legacy guests and the community of Carmel, you have to exceed all expectations and most importantly, retain the soul of the place. We know that our guests will immediately embrace the new La Playa Carmel.”
La Playa has been operating as a hotel for nearly 100 years in Carmel, and for 40 of those years workers had a union contract. However, it is unclear what connection the hotel's management has to the community, or what level of knowledge the owners have of the actual history of the establishment. Sam Grossman of Santa Monica owns Grossman Company Properties, of which Classic Hotels & Resorts, an Arizona based firm, is an affiliate, and workers have had difficulty communicating with those in charge.
Monterey County supervisor Jane Parker, who has a very strong connection to the local area, had been happily visiting La Playa since she was a "young lady", but she is now an advocate for the boycott of the hotel. At Devendorf Park, Parker thanked demonstrators for sending the message that, "In our community we respect workers, and we expect the businesses in our community to do the same."
She asked community members to talk to their friends and neighbors and to tell them what is going on at the locally popular hotel and restaurant. "As much as we love to go to La Playa, it's not the same place right now, so we need to not go there until they do the right thing by workers," she said.
There was a strong police presence throughout all phases of the march and rally. One officer with the Carmel Police, John Hanson , was waiting at La Playa before the demonstration began, and when the action reached its peak, on foot he personally escorted hotel guests to La Playa's main entrance. In one instance, after escorting a small group towards the lobby, Hanson with his body physically blocked a demonstrator from offering the hotel guests information about the boycott (see video below).
A half dozen or so officers were seen monitoring the demonstration from their vehicles at various points during the picketing, and along the march. In one instance, a motorcycle officer assisted demonstrators with traffic control, but the group generally controlled traffic on their own with pre-assigned traffic "guards". In addition to "watching" demonstrators, officers often verbally warned those participating that they would be cited for being in the roadway if they veered off of the sidewalk. Officers did not appear to issue the same warning to those watching the demonstration pass by, many of whom were shoppers standing in the roadway. Carmel Police Chief Mike Calhoun was also on scene for a short period of time, riding around in a plain black, unmarked vehicle.
For more information about the continuing 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:
Carmel Police Officer John Hanson escorts hotel guests to the front entrance, then blocks a demonstrator with his body to prevent him from offering them a boycott flier.
Introducing the workers at Devendorf Park.
Jane Parker speaks at Devendorf Park.
Carmel Police officer John Hanson looks to his watch to determine how much longer the demonstration will likely last.
La Playa Management and Carmel Police
La Playa Carmel, Carmel Police
Marching on Camino Real
Stop The War On Workers
Camino Real, Carmel-by-the-Sea
Police Officer Directing Traffic, Corner of Camino Real and Ocean Avenue
Carmel Police Chief Mike Calhoun, Ocean Avenue
Former La Playa Workers, Devendorf Park
"BOICOTEA A LA PLAYA CARMEL"
The "Grand Dame" of Carmel, performance by Unite Here Local 483 members at Devendorf Park.