The militant hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11 has turned in what could be enough signatures to qualify an initiative that would impose a host of costly employment mandates on Anaheim hotels and event centers – unless they gain an exemption by having their workers join UNITE-HERE.

Although sold by the union as a worker safety measure by requiring equipping housekeeping staff with “panic buttons”, the initiative imposes a $25 an hour minimum wage on Anaheim hotels and event centers, as well as a costly series of work rules.

Hotels are increasingly providing their housekeeping staff with panic buttons, in any case.

On Friday, March 10, Local 11 turned in more than 25,000 signatures to the Anaheim City Clerk, who will conduct a primary review of the signatures. The verified signatures of at least 16, 842  registered Anaheim voters is necessary to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Next week, the signed petitions will be handed over to the OC Registrar of Voters, which will have 30 days to verify whether the initiative qualifies. If it does, the initiative will come before the Anaheim City Council, which can either place it on ballot or adopt it as an ordinance.

The city council also has the option of first requesting a study of the initiative’s impacts – which it may opt to do since the measure will apply to employees of city-owned venues such as the Anaheim Convention Center, Angel Stadium, the Honda Center and the City National Grove of Anaheim.  After being presented with the results of that study, the council would then decide whether to place it on the ballot or adopt it as an ordinance.

If it goes to the ballot, the city council could hold a special election or place it on either the March 2024 presidential primary ballot, or the November 2024 general election ballot.

On December 22, UNITE-HERE Local 11 put $95,000 into an initiative committee called “Citizens For A Responsible Anaheim” to support efforts to secure its passage.

In addition to the massive hourly wage increase, UNITE-HERE’s measure would impose stringent regulations on how much floor space hotel room attendants can clean before being paid double time.

For smaller hotels (fewer than 60 guest rooms), hotels would have to pay room attendants wive their hourly pay if they cleaned more than 4,000 square feet of floor space during an 8-hour shift.

For hotels with more than 60 rooms, the threshold for triggering double-time pay would be 3,500 square feet.

In other words, if a room attendant cleaned 3,501 square feet of floor space during their 8-hour shift, they would be entitled to twice their hourly pay.

UNITE-HERE wrote an escape hatch into the initiative’s language: hotels and event centers that unionize their employees as UNITE-HERE Local 11 members will be exempted from the measure’s mandates:

The provisions of sections 6.100.040 through 6.100.080 of this chapter, or any part thereof, may be waived pursuant to a bona fide collective bargaining agreement, but only if the waiver is expressly set forth in clear and unambiguous written terms. Neither party to a collective bargaining relationship may waive or supersede any provision of this chapter by means of unilaterally imposed terms and conditions of employment.

Local 11 has used this tactic as an organizing tool in other cities. When a similar measure was adopted in Los Angeles, UNITE-HERE Local 11 members were surprised to discover they would be receiving the promised minimum wage increase because they worked at hotels with collective bargaining agreements with Local 11.

“This is nothing more than an attempt to bully hotels into unionizing, even if it’s not what employees want. This tactic is not new for Local 11, a union that also advocated for exempting unionized hotels from Los Angeles’s $15 minimum wage,” said Charlyce Bozzello of the Center for Union Facts. “Workers should ask themselves if this is really a union they want representing them.”