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Santa Monica’s Shore Hotel Alleges Union Harassment
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 31, 2016 -- High-ranking staff from Santa Monica’s Shore Hotel say daily union protests are disturbing the peace, and the City Council should do something to stop it.

These comments were made during the public input section of last Tuesday night’s council meeting, which actually took place in the early hours of Wednesday morning because the session took so long.

“Obviously I believe in our right to assemble and protest,” said Charlie Virzi, a concierge at the hotel. “But 7 a.m. with a blow horn would be my definition of ‘disturbing the peace.’ And I think it’s something that needs to be looked at.”

The early morning protesters are associated with the hotel and restaurant workers union UNITE HERE Local 11, which wants to unionize the Shore’s employees. Virzi says the Shore unknowingly hired four union organizers who spent their time trying to recruit workers.

“They weren’t successful and couldn’t get anybody to join because the employees at the Shore want to be there,” Virzi said.

He added that the protests are "not only hurting our business, but it’s hurting the tourism in Santa Monica. We receive countless reviews from guests saying they will not return to Santa Monica.”

Council members did not respond to Virzi because they are prohibited from communicating with people who speak during the public input portion of the meeting, since the specific topics are not on the agenda.

Had they been allowed to respond, it is unlikely most of the council members would have said anything Virzi wanted to hear. In fact, at a majority of the council’s request, City staff is preparing a measure that would further protect the protesters (“Free Speech and Noise Regulations Collide in Santa Monica,” April 13, 2016).

While City law prohibits noises that “unreasonably disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of persons of normal sensitivity,” the council majority said at the April 12 meeting that it should be changed so that non-commercial free speech in a commercial zone from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. “shall be presumed to be a legal activity.”

UNITE requested the change because it said the current law makes protesting difficult. Some protesters had been placed in handcuffs recently, although City staff says they were not booked or arrested.

The council also heard late Tuesday/early Wednesday from the Shore’s general manager, Gerry Peck, who said there has been a great deal of “misinformation and negative attention paid to our hotel.”

“The Shore Hotel has been portrayed as anti-union and unfriendly toward employees,” Peck said. “The Shore is not anti-union. We are pro-worker and offer them a choice.”

Virzi told the council that he had “never worked in a better environment.”

“From orientation on, each employee is treated beyond fairly,” he said. “I could go on all day about how fairly treated each employee is, but in my opinion the protests are not about employee fairness.”

Some former workers have told a different story, complaining of bad working conditions.

Several of them spoke about their grievances at recent hearings of the California Coastal Commission, which was considering the hotel’s unrelated permit matter (“Santa Monica’s Shore Hotel Could Face Enforcement Action,” February 16, 2016).

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