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Hotel Union Seeks End to Labor Dispute Before Santa Monica Property Sells

Bob Kronovetrealty
We Love Property Management Headaches!

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By Jorge Casuso

February 15, 2021 -- Workers at Santa Monica's Le Merigot Hotel are demanding that its owner resolve a longstanding labor dispute before selling the reportedly struggling property.

Hearings before the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement are scheduled for May 3 to determine claims filed against Columbia Sussex by eleven housekeepers in 2018.

According to union officials, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, the industry's top adviser, reported that Columbia Sussex "has marketed the property for sale unencumbered by brand or management."

"The housekeepers allege that the hotel’s burdensome workloads interfered with their ability to take rest breaks and caused some workers to work off the clock," said UNITE HERE Local 11.

In August 2019, Merigot housekeepers were among those who urged the City Council to approve an ordinance that dictates maximum workloads for non-union workers ("Santa Monica Council Unanimously Approves Groundbreaking Hotel Ordinance," August 28, 2019).

Union activists said the workload provision became necessary when hotel owners boosted workloads after the Council passed a minimum wage law in 2016.

The ordinance, union officials said, ensures "employers could not respond to minimum wage increases by increasing workloads, as the JW Marriott Le Merigot had previously done."

The ordinance includes a hastily added provision that protects workers in the event a hotel changes management or ownership ("Provision Added to Hotel Ordinance Sparks Widely Differing Views," August 21, 2019).

The hearings for the eleven wage claims against Le Merigot come less than two years after the hotel agreed to pay more than $35,000 in worker bonuses ("Santa Monica Hotel Settles Worker Complaints with Labor Board," September 16, 2019).

It also offered to reinstate a fired worker as part of a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board reached less than two weeks before hearings were scheduled to begin.

The settlement stemmed from organizing efforts by Unite HERE Local 11 that led to the hotel's unionization in late 2016.

Union leaders said the hotel had refused to sign a contract "despite the union’s position that the parties have already reached an agreement."

The company did not admit wrongdoing but agreed to resolve the 11 unfair labor practice cases, union officials said.

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