Mayor Ashleigh Aitken recently told a group of Anaheim Democrat activists that she opposes the “weaponized” recall campaign being waged against her “duly elected” colleague Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava by UNITE-HERE Local 11 – the militant hotel workers union that is one of Aitken’s major political allies.

While speaking at the February 1 meeting of the Anaheim Democrat Club, Aitken was asked her position on the Rubalcava recall. Aitken responded that she opposed it, saying Rubalcava has been “duly elected.”

“If you want my opinion personally, I am absolutely against it and support my council colleague. I think she was duly elected by a majority – by a large majority – of the residents of District 3,” Aitken explained to the activist group.

“I’m not comfortable with recalls being used as a political hammer,” Aitken continued. “And I believe that not just because she’s my council colleague, and she’s also a fellow registered Democrat.”

Aitken complained the recall process has been “weaponized” and was “fundamentally” opposed to turning it against individuals who have been “duly elected through a democratic process” unless the person has been convicted of breaking the law.

“I didn’t support [use of the recall] when it was my friend [state Senator] Josh Newman, I didn’t support it when it was Harry Sidhu and I don’t support it right now.”

The Anaheim Democrats had posted video of Mayor Aitken’s commentary on the recall and other topics to its Facebook page, but the video is no longer there. Club member and blogger Vern Nelson states it will be on the club’s YouTube channel at some point.

The recall is a project of UNITE-HERE Local 11 Co-President Ada Briceno, who is also the chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.  Briceno and Local 11 supported Rubalcava’s opponent in the November 2022 council election, which she won with nearly 58% of the vote.  Briceno and the union are also furious at Rubalcava for spearheading the city council’s adoption in June 2023 of the Anaheim Hotel Worker Protection Ordinance, which requires hotels to equip housekeepers with personal security devices – commonly referred to as “panic buttons” – enabling them to summon assistance if they feel endangered or harassed.

Local 11 had included a panic button requirement in a ballot measure it qualified in Anaheim to impose draconian wage increases and work rules on th city’s hotels and event centers: the union’s campaign game plan was to use the panic button provision as a electoral Trojan Horse to gain passage of the wage and work rules.

The city council’s preemptive adoption of the panic button requirement deprived UNITE-HERE Local 11 of its strongest campaign message for Measure A – which went on to a landslide defeat in an October 2023 special election. This infuriated Briceno and a few weeks later the union launched their recall against Rubalcava.