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Practice What You Preach

By Klaus Mennekes

The proponents of the living wage ordinance, who so gallantly claim that they want to better the lives of hotel workers by unionizing them, conveniently fail to mention some important facts.

When comparing wages and benefits between the non-union Hotel Casa del Mar / Shutters on the Beach and the unionized Viceroy Hotel it is clear that the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union (H.E.R.E.), which is the power and money behind the city's living wage ordinance, clearly does not practice what it preaches.

Here is a factual example of current hourly wages paid for a number of job classifications that have been used by SMART advocates to whip up a frenzy:

Job Category Casa / Shutters Wages      Viceroy Wages
Lowest    Highest
Room Attendant (Maid) $10.82 $13.29 $9.85
Steward (Dishwasher) $10.82 $11.52 $9.85
Houseperson $10.82 $11.61 $9.85
Laundry Attendant $10.82 $12.18 $9.85

The living wage ordinance, which will be before Santa Monica voters in November, exempts unionized hotels. If the living wage ordinance, which is touted by some City Council members and certain self-described "community leaders," is so critical to the well-being of hotel employees then why are they not insisting that the unionized Santa Monica hotels be subject to the same ordinance?

Doesn't it concern these "leaders" that their living wage ordinance specifically EXCLUDES employees at unionized hotels? Doesn't it concern them that many of these union employees will not be paid $10.50 per hour, which means that they will be paid considerably less than workers doing the same job at other hotels?

I wonder if the employees who demonstrated for the living wage ordinance are aware that they have been excluded from the ordinance by their "leaders." It is a fact that a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between H.E.R.E. Union 814 and the unionized Fairmont and Viceroy Hotels completely exempts these two hotels from all provisions of the living wage ordinance.

It is very apparent, once you scratch below the surface, that the living wage ordinance has very little to do with "employee empowerment" but rather everything to do with power, politics and paybacks.

The vocal supporters of the living wage ordinance, many of who do not even live in Santa Monica, are not being truthful with our community. I challenge them to disclose to the citizens of Santa Monica the following important points:

  • 1. Please tell the citizens of Santa Monica that the Santa Monicans Allied for Responsible Tourism (SMART) is in every respect a political organization with a political agenda and supported by labor union money. Its sole purpose is to ensure passage of a living wage ordinance, but one that exempts union hotels.

  • 2. Please tell the citizens of Santa Monica that Vivian Rothstein, the leader of SMART, was in fact a paid organizer of the union at an annual salary of over $65,000 per year (public information).

  • 3. Please explain to the citizens of Santa Monica how political actions in front of our hotels help tourism in Santa Monica. Tourism is a major engine that drives Santa Monica's economy. Due to the economy and the events of September 11, tourism is way down. The decline in tourism tax dollars is a leading factor in the current Santa Monica city budget crisis.

  • 4. Please explain to the citizens of Santa Monica that this ordinance will cost the City of Santa Monica $3 million in the first year alone. With our current budget deficit, where will this extra money come from? What important city programs and services will be cut to pay for this ill-conceived ordinance?

An old saying goes: In war and in politics, the first victim is truth. The citizens of Santa Monica deserve and expect the untarnished Truth.

Hotel Casa del Mar as well as Shutters on the Beach have been, and will continue to be, among the business leaders who are working to better the lives of their employees and the community. We will continue to practice what we preach.

(Klaus Mennekes is general manager of Hotel Casa del Mar)

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