Photo credit: Jeff Gritchen, OC Register

Last night, Councilman Jose F. Moreno joined militant UNITE-HERE Local 11 protesters in closing down the intersection of Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue in the heart of the Anaheim Resort – leading to Anaheim police arresting Moreno and 20 other union and left-wing political activists in a carefully staged act of political theater.

The entire episode represented “a significant drain on police resources,” according to Anaheim Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jeff Mundy.

UNITE-HERE Local 11 represents hotel workers, primarily housekeepers, employed by the Anaheim Hilton and the Sheraton Park Hotel. Those two hotels – plus the three Disney properties – are the only unionized hotels in the Anaheim Resort.

Housekeepers at those two hotels make $17 on hour.  UNITE-HERE Local 11 is demanding an increase to $25 an hour by 2023, and at the same time reduce their workload – the same deal they’ve wrung out of 14 luxury hotels in Los Angeles. However, the economics of the two situations is very different: the LA hotels charge significantly higher room rates than the Anaheim Hilton and Sheraton Park Hotels.

Moreno In Political Debt To UNITE-HERE
Interestingly, UNITE-HERE does not publicly specify its wage demands, and instead talks wanting “fair wages.” What is clear is their intent to take Anaheim’s biggest convention event – The NAMM Show – hostage in an attempt to use this unrelated trade show as unwilling leverage in the union’s negotiations with the Anaheim Hilton and the Sheraton Park Hotel.

The NAMM Show is second only to Anaheim’s theme parks in terms of its positive economic impacts for Anaheim. The revenues it generates pay for staffing at city parks, libraries and other community benefits. The Anaheim Convention Center is a city-owned asset that generates tremendous fiscal and economic benefits for the city treasury. There’s considerable consternation among Ansheim civic and community leaders that a sitting councilman would ignore that reality by helping disrupt a major trade in hopes of giving a political ally a leg up in labor negotiations.

It’s fair to say Jose F. Moreno owes his council seat to UNITE-HERE Local 11, which is run by his close political ally (and new chair of the OC Democratic Party) Ada Briceno.  When Moreno first ran for the District 3 seat in 2016, UNITE-HERE went against county labor federation rules and flooded District 3 with precinct walkers. Moreno barely edged out then-Councilman Jordan Brandman by 72 votes.

Moreno was re-elected last November and is prevented by term limits from running again in 2020. It is rumored Moreno is planning a primary challenges against either Rep. Lou Correa or Assemblyman Tom Daly, whom the leftist academic disdains of “corporate” Democrats.

Arrest Event Choreographed, Well-Organized
The protest was highly-organized. UNITE-HERE Local 11 was by Workers United Local 50, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (a union auxiliary of left-wing clergy), and a number of Democratic Party officials and progressive politicians and activists.

The protest’s “designated arrestees” – including Moreno – and their handlers were first to arrive at the Katella-Harbor intersection, wearing orange safety vests. Their numbers grew steadily as more protesters walked over from the GardenWalk parking structure. The crowd reached its expected size once the main body of protesters had made their way over from picketing in front the Hilton. Union organizers communicating via headsets deployed groups of protesters to each corner of the intersection, intermixed with bewildered conventioneers on foot who were taking photos and videos of the hubbub with their cel phones.

Although the event’s official purpose was protesting perceived injustice, the mood was festive as progressive politicos from around Orange County greeted each other, chatted and joked. Among those mixing and mingling were Fullerton Councilman Ahmad Zarah, Aliso Viejo Councilwoman Tiffany Ackley, Anaheim Elementary School Board member Juan Alvarez and Al Jabbar, Board member of deputy chief of staff to Supervisor Doug Chaffee – just to name a few. If you were a member of OC’s progressive-Left establishment, this was the place to be and be seen. Once you’ve covered enough of these protests in Orange County, you realize it is the same people, different issue.

As Ada Briceno and other protest VIPs conducted media interviews, the main body of protesters remained in a holding pattern around the bus shelter in front of a CVS pharmacy, keeping their engines revved with standard labor chants.  Once a sufficient police presence was in place and the media interviews wrapped up, organizers signaled the pre-positioned protester platoons to enter the cross-walks. Arms out-stretched and holding hands, these safety-vest clad protesters assumed somber dignity-in-the-face-of-injustice expressions while blocking the oncoming traffic sections of the cross walks.

Bu this time, the Anaheim police had already blocked off north-bound Harbor Boulevard and deployed a skirmish line of officers in basic riot gear, with a flying platoon held in reserve.  Organizers sent the main body of protestors marching through the crosswalks in a circuit around the intersection, chanting and banging drums. Once that was done, a white work truck pulled up on south-bound Harbor. Briceno and other UNITE-HERE officials, as well as Councilman Moreno, clambered onto the truck bad to harangue the crowd over a loudspeaker.

At that point, the Anaheim police announced over a loud speaker asking the demonstrators to clear the intersection, citing the municipal code they were violating. The 21 designated arrestees subsequently walked the center of the intersection and sat down in a semi-circle, holding signs and chanting standard protest chants.  The police repeated the warning to disperse over the loudspeaker before moving in. The officers surrounded the protestors, and then arrested and removed them one by one. The protestors hands were placed behind their backs and secured with zip tied handcuffs.

The process was very business-like – and then again, it had been mapped out ahead of time for the police. The union even had an attorney on hand holding a banker’s box labeled “arrest materials.”

You can watch Anaheim Blog’s Facebook Live videos of the protest:

and the arrests here:

Here is Councilman Jose F. Moreno being arrested:

Moreno and the others were walked to a police bus a couple hundred feet up Harbor Boulevard. From there, they were bused to the APD mobile command center – which was specially deployed for this purpose.

Since the protesters were arrested for a misdemeanor offense, the decision to prosecute will be made by the Anaheim City Attorney’s Office – with the exception of one arrestee: Jose F. Moreno.  Moreno’s status as an Anaheim councilmember makes it a conflict for City Attorney Robert Fabela, so Moreno’s case is being referred to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office – where the decision to prosecute will presumably be made by newly-elected DA Todd Spitzer.

A Taxpayer-Subsidized Union Negotiating Tactic
As Sgt. Mundy said, the police resources consumed by this protest were substantial. All told, there were more than 50 Anaheim police officers in the skirmish line and on the scene – and that’s not counting support personnel backing them up. Other costs included deploying the mobile command center to process the arrests of Moreno, Briceno and their comrades – not to mention a number of officers were certainly being paid overtime.

The union’s illegal shutdown of the Katella-Harbor intersection forced the OCTA to re-route buses along those busy corridors – inconveniencing workers who depend on public transportation.

If a charity or event or other private entity wanted to shut down a public street to hold a rally or an event, it would have to reimburse the city for the associated costs – not to mention obtaining a permit.  Disneyland is the target for much invective by Moreno and his political allies – but Disneyland cuts a check to the city to cover the costs of providing police and emergency services to its theme parks.

UNITE-HERE Local 11 – with the active participating of Anaheim Councilman Jose F. Moreno – illegally shuts down a busy intersection in the economic heart of the city – and its Anaheim taxpayers who are picking up the tab. It’s ironic given constant harping by Moreno and UNITE-HERE Local 11 about taxpayer “giveaways.”

Anaheim would be in its rights to send UNITE-HERE a bill.

Few Of The “Designated Arrestee” Protesters Are From Anaheim
Of the 21 individuals designated by the union to illegally occupy the intersection and thus invite arrest, only 6 – including Moreno – are from Anaheim. This is emblematic of the protest itself: despite claims this demonstration was held to support working Anaheim residents, relatively few Resort workers live in Anaheim.

Here’s a list of the arrestees:

At the end of the day, this was a well-organized and calculated attempt by UNITE-HERE and Moreno to take a trade show that is vitally important to Anaheim and drag it unwillingly into labor dispute in which it has no part. This isn’t surprising behavior from the brawlingly radical leadership of UNITE-HERE. They don’t care about negatively impacting the city. What’s disturbing is that a sitting Anaheim councilman would go so far as to intentionally violate the law of the city he helps govern, in order to further the political agenda of a campaign supporter.