The so-called “Hotel Worker Protection Initiative” sponsored by UNITE-HERE Local 11 is a manifestation of either the militant union’s economic ignorance, hostility toward free enterprise, or desperate greed for more membership dues revenues (the ballot measure doubles as a club to extort Anaheim hotels and event centers to unionize). Or all of the above.
It’s also a tacit admission by UNITE-HERE Local 11 of its failure as a union.
Let’s consider some facts.
With approximately 140 hotels employing thousands of workers, one would think the Anaheim Resort would be fertile organizing grounds for a hotel workers. Yet, UNITE-HERE Local 11 only has collective bargaining agreements with only five of those hotels.
In fact, Local 11 hasn’t organized an Anaheim hotel in more than a quarter century. The last hotel to sign a collective bargaining agreement with UNITE-HERE Local 11 was the Sheraton Park in the mid-1990s, and that had more to do with the hotel’s ownership tiring of the disruption of the union’s constant series of failed organizing drives and making a deal with Local 11 to unionize.
And it’s no coincidence that the Sheraton Park has since undergone a revolving door of owners because unionization under UNITE-HERE makes the hotel inordinately expensive to operate. It had to go into bankruptcy and an ownership change to afford a long-overdue renovation.
The Hilton Anaheim, another property with a collective bargaining agreement with UNITE-HERE Local 11, has experienced similar ownership instability and insufficient capital to invest in renovation. It is currently owned by foreign investors.
UNITE-HERE is a business. Its business is memberships. And business hasn’t been very good for Local 11. Like the hotels where its members work, UNITE-HERE Local 11’s membership rolls were crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. From 28,649 dues-paying members in 2019, Local 11 was down to 8,440 members by the end of 2020 (according to the union’s financial disclosures filed with the US. Department of Labor).
Local 11’s membership still hasn’t fully recovered: by the end of 2022, the union had 20,394 members, as well as 1,735 agency fee payers.
That’s what this initiative is all about: UNITE-HERE Local 11’s blunt force trauma approach to boosting its dues revenues.
Local 11’s ballot measure contains a provision allowing the waiver of the panic button, $25 minimum wage, ridiculous room cleaning limits and other costly provisions if the hotel has a collective bargaining agreement – i.e. its workers are UNITE-HERE Local 11 members. Even then, that could only be done with union consent.
This “supersession” provision reveals UNITE-HERE’s strategy: pass an initiative that makes being non-union so expensive and complicated that hotels will negotiate collective bargaining agreements with UNITE-HERE.
But the supersession provision isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for Anaheim’s five unionized hotels (which include Disney’s three properties). UNITE-HERE has to agree to waive any of the provisions, and that requires re-opening their existing collective bargaining agreements with the ballot measure’s super-expensive wage and work rules as leverage.
This is another wrinkle exposing the deeply cynical and greedy nature of this initiative: UNITE-HERE is implicitly stating its willingness to bargain away protections it is now claiming are necessary for the safety and protection of hotel workers!
And all in pursuit of fattening UNITE-HERE Local 11 coffers by using ballot box extortion do what Local 11 leaders have failed to do for decades: persuade Anaheim hotel workers that they’re better off as UNITE-HERE members.