Hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11 partnered with a political organization funded by infamous cryptocurrency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried to qualify a wage-and-work-rules measure targeting Glendale hotels in 2022.

Bankman-Fried, who was co-founder and president of cryptocurrency trader FTX, was sentenced last month to 25 years in federal prison for defrauding customers of billions of dollars.

A UNITE-HERE Local 11-controlled campaign committee took a $150,000 contribution from an entity controlled and funded by Bankman-Fried, and then later funneled 80% of those funds into Local 11 coffers.

The militant hotel workers union 11 is currently spearheading a campaign to recall Anaheim Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava – payback for her key role in the landslide defeat last year of the union’s $25-an-hour wage-and-work rules ballot measure.

In 2021, UNITE-HERE Local 11 leadership launched a campaign to impose a “living wage” of not less than $17.64 on Glendale hoteliers in July of 2023. Local 11 leaders have never explained why they thought $17.64 is a living wage in Glendale in 2023 but the $18.50 average wage being earned at the time by hotel housekeepers was a “slave wage” in Anaheim and a “living wage” was $25 an hour.

The union formed a campaign committee, “Citizens for a Better Glendale, sponsored by UNITE-HERE Local 11” to fund a campaign to pass a ballot measure. Ada Briceno – Local 11 co-president and chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County – served as the campaign committee’s treasurer.

Enter Crypto-Crook Sam Bankman-Fried

On March 10, 2022, the Local 11-sponsored committee accepted a $150,000 contribution from a non-profit political advocacy group called “Guarding Against Pandemics”:

Guarding Against Pandemics was a political advocacy vehicle funded by Bankman-Fried and run by his younger brother Gabe, a former legislative staffer. According to the New York Times, Bankman-Fried used the group to funnel millions into various progressive causes:

“The money flowed freely at a pandemic-prevention organization run by the younger brother of Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced cryptocurrency mogul.”

“Just over $375,000 financed a failed campaign in Colorado to increase taxes on cannabis sales in order to support pandemic research. Another $1 million was spent on consulting and advertising expenses in a single year. And $3.3 million went toward the purchase of a luxurious townhouse a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.”

“The group, Guarding Against Pandemics, raised more than $22 million in its first full year in 2021, turning it into an overnight lobbying force in Washington. The group’s founder, Gabe Bankman-Fried, a former legislative assistant, started getting the rock star treatment: two White House meetings with senior staff and invitations to speak on panels with government officials.”

Bankman-Fried’s enormous political spending had made him the toast of progressive political circles. He and his brother even explored buying the Pacific island nation of Nauru as a bunker-haven in the event of a extinction-level event hitting mankind.

A few months after taking the $150,000 from Bankman-Fried’s political influence organization, the Local 11-controlled campaign committee subsequently gathered enough signatures and by June of 2022 it was clear it would qualify for the ballot. The Glendale City Council voted to adopt the measure at its June 28, 2022 meeting.

Interestingly, Briceno and Local 11 initially reported the $150,000 as coming from the union’s coffers:

It wasn’t until several months later in August – after the council adopted the union’s “living wage” measure – that Briceno, the committee treasurer, filed an amended report disclosing the Bankman-Fried funding.

Following The Bankman-Fried Money…Into UNIT-HERE Local 11 Coffers

The Glendale City Council’s action obviated the need to run a ballot measure campaign, so in late 2022 UNITE-HERE Local 11 terminated “Citizens for a Better Glendale” (although the termination wasn’t filed until February 2023). The $150,000 contribution from Bankman-Fried-controlled Guardians Against Pandemics was not returned. Some was used to pay various campaign vendors but the bulk of it – $120,000 — was diverted into UNITE-HERE Local 11 coffers and claimed on the campaign report as a “refund” – even though the money did not com from Local 11:

That $120,000 ultimately came from investors in Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency Ponzi scheme – investors defrauded of billions, a crime for which Bankman-Fried will be serving 25 years in a federal penitentiary. It’s entirely possible those funds were later used to qualify the Natalie Rubalcava recall campaign.

UNITE-HERE Local 11 did not respond to requests for comment.