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Pico Youth and Family Center Pickets Santa Monica Hotel for Cesar Chavez Day

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By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

April 1, 2014 -- Kids from Santa Monica’s Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) got a lesson in labor organizing Monday when they joined dozens of workers and civic leaders in a picket line outside the DoubleTree Hotel.

As part of the PYFC’s Cesar Chavez Day celebration, students gathered at the Center on Pico Boulevard near Santa Monica High School and marched to the hotel on the western end of the school’s campus, carrying signs emblazoned with union slogans and a six-foot-tall portrait of the labor leader.

PYFC members protest outside the DoubleTree Hotel in Santa Monica. Photos courtesy of the PYFC

The group of Santa Monica College, UCLA and Santa Monica and Olympic High School students joined dozens of hotel workers who have been protesting outside of the DoubleTree hotel since February after alleging that management has denied them legally-mandated breaks.

“At the Pico Youth & Family Center, we teach social responsibility,” said PYFC founder Oscar de la Torre, who helped organize Monday’s march.

“Everyone else had the day off, but we decided to have the day on by joining in non-violent social protest,” he said. “We decided to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day by supporting the hotel workers at the DoubleTree Hotel.”

De la Torre, who sits on the Santa Monica-Malibu School Board, said that the issue is especially sensitive because the DoubleTree Hotel leases School District land.

“We are definitely in the process of reviewing our lease agreement because we are very concerned about the allegations we are hearing related to workers' rights,” he said.

In February, DoubleTree workers filed an official complaint with the California State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. ("Union Pickets Santa Monica Hotel over Alleged Labor Abuses," February 19, 2014)

Since then, workers have filed 10 claims with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that management is interfering with their “federally-protected right to join together collectively and ask for rest and meal breaks,” said Melanie Luthern, an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 11, the regional hospitality workers’ union.

The DoubleTree Hotel general manager did not return requests for comment.

Monday’s protest lends new energy to the ongoing fight, Luthern said. “It's really exciting to have the community here and the young Latino youth come out to the picket line,” she said.

Just over a week ago -- and about 100 yards away from the location of Monday’s protest -- the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation hosted a fund raiser screening of “Cesar Chavez,” a feature film based on the life of the iconic labor leader who helped found United Farm Workers union.

For de la Torre, Monday’s demonstration was a continuation of Chavez’s work.

“We want to make sure that we don't just think of Cesar Chavez and the movement he led as something in the past,” he said. “We have labor strife at the DoubleTree Hotel.”

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