There is nepotism in the to ranks of the militant hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11 – with family members of Local 11 leaders benefitting from their familial connections, according to a new report by the watchdog group Center for Union Facts.
“A new investigation of Unite Here Local 11 shows the family members of union co-presidents – Ada Briceño, Susan Minato, and Kurt Petersen – have benefited from leadership roles and employment at Local 11 and other labor unions and affiliated groups in California,” according to the report.
Local 11 Co-President Ada Briceño is married to Enrique Fernandez, who is General Vice President for Immigration, Civil Rights, and Diversity for UNITE-HERE national and Business Manager for San Jose-based Local 19.
“Records show that Fernandez’s daughter – Maria Fernandez – appears to have benefitted from her family’s influence in the union,” according to the Center for Union Facts investigation.
Quitclaim Deed from Orange County Clerk-Recorder’s Office:
“Through her family connections in Unite Here leadership, it appears that Maria Fernandez has climbed the ranks of several labor-friendly non-profit organizations since the early 2010’s,” claims the report. “The non-profit organizations she is involved in also happen to be groups her father has worked with for more than a decade.”
Who has been president of Working Partnerships USA since 2008? Her father, Enrique Fernandez.
Since Maria Fernandez became an employee of Working Partnerships USA, UNITE-HERE Local 19 – run by her father – has made payments to the group of more than $200,000 for “research services” and “charity.”
Working Partnerships USA’s Form 990 for 2015:
Working Partnerships USA’s Form 990 for 2021:
“Maria Fernandez has also climbed the ranks at the South Bay AFL-CIO, where she was first listed in 2017 as a trustee and is now the first vice president of the executive board,” states the Center for Union Facts report. “Enrique Fernandez has been treasurer of South Bay AFL-CIO since at least 2004. Since 2010, Unite Here Local 19 has paid the group more than $100,000.”
From the South Bay Labor’s Board and Staff page:
Maria Fernandez’s husband Carlos Cortes also appears to be a beneficiary of connections to the union. In 2016, UNITE-HERE Local 19 reported he was a employed by the union as a receptionist making $38,039 a year. In 2022, Carlos Cortes had risen to executive board director and was making $65,364.
[Source: Office of Labor Management Standards]
For years, Local 11 Co-President Susan Minato’s husband Gregory Griffith has been paid out of union coffers for “IT Services.” Between 2014 and 2021, the union co-headed by his wife paid Griffith more than $600,000 for IT services.
“Griffith and Minato now live in a home that is worth over $two million,” according to the report.
Not to be outdone, another UNITE-HERE Co-President – Kurt Petersen – also has a family member on the Local 11 payroll. His daughter Hannah Petersen is an organizer for the union. During the pandemic – while the union reportedly pressured out-of-work members to pay dues – Hannah Petersen was given a seven percent pay hike. In fact, the senior leadership of Local 11 gave themselves pay hikes while their members collected unemployment during the pandemic shutdown.
“Apparently, Local 11’s leadership spends plenty of time placing family members in positions of influence – often footing the bill with members’ dues dollars. But union members might be less than thrilled to know how rampant nepotism runs at Unite Here,” opines the Center for Union Facts report.