My experience supporting Santa Monica workers coincides with the rebirth of the local labor movement in 1995, when management of what was then Santa Monica’s only unionized hotel (the Miramar), sought to decertify their workers’ union - the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 814 - by filing decertification election petitions with the National Labor Relations Board. As part of this effort, hotel management hired union-busting consultants and subjected hotel employees to forced meetings.
In 1996, I was supported by HERE Local 814 in the November City Council elections, in which I was elected. In 1997, management's decertification campaign accelerated, during which time I supported workers by attending demonstrations, writing op/eds, and making house visits. Within a hostile and intimidating environment, hotel employees narrowly voted for decertification.
Delmy Falla, a key union employee and organizer fired by the Miramar during that time, has endorsed my City Council campaign this year. Here is press from that struggle in which I was quoted, along the two op/eds I co-wrote with SMART organizers:
December 17th, 1997: Hotel Workers Say Vote Against Union Was Coerced. By Sue McAllister. Section: News in Brief, A summary of developments across Los Angeles County; Community News File; Santa Monica. Los Angeles Times
December 13th, 1997: Hotel Union Decertification Election Focus of Public Meeting. By Sue McAllister. Section: News in Brief, A summary of developments across Los Angeles County; Community News File; Santa Monica. Los Angeles Times
December 12th, 1997: Opinion: Santa Monica hotel workers deserve their fair share. By Michael Feinstein and Beth Leder-Pack. Santa Monica Argonaut, a bi-weekly free paper distributed all over Santa Monica and parts of the Westside.
November 1st, 1997: 'Workers Don't Share in Santa Monica's Tourism Success'. By Mike Feinstein, Green Party organizer, Santa Monica City Councilmember & Stephanie Monroe, Santa Monicans Allied for Responsible Tourism. ChangeLinks social change calendar.
October 23th, 1997: Left out: Coalition backs tourism workers’ rights. By Mary Moore, The Outlook, Santa Monica.
September 26th, 1997: Union Objects to Poster as Nazi Imagery; Labor: Santa Monica hotel's management denies organizers' accusations. By Sue McAllister. Los Angeles Times, Metro Section.
September 26th, 1997: Hitler is focus of poster protest. By Mary Moore, The Outlook, Santa Monica
From the depths of this struggle grew the roots of Santa Monicans Allied for Responsible Tourism (SMART), of which I was involved, including supporting worker's successful efforts to establish unions at the Loews Hotel on Ocean ave. and the Holiday Inn (now Sheraton Delfina) on 6th/Pico Bl - and ultimately under new management, at the Miramar. One of the co-founders of SMART, Santa Monican Beth Leder-Pack, has endorsed my campaign this year.
Then came the Living Wage ordinance. I was vocal and supportive first in authorizing the 1999 study in the face of a lot of controversy and opposition, then defeating the counter-living wage initiative KK in 2000, and then passing the real Living Wage ordinance at the Council level in 2001.
Not only did I vote for the Living Wage, but I made grounded social justice arguments for it during our council meetings, in op/eds and in the press:
‘Is it acceptable that large businesses profit significantly from public investment, then pay wages so low, that their employees must receive food stamps or some other public assistance, just to survive?’
‘Are we Santa Monicans comfortable with the fact that tax dollars that pay for our parks and police are generated on the backs of these underpaid workers?’
Here is a some of the press during that period in which I was quoted and the op/ed I co-wrote in support of the Living Wage and other local labor issues:
August 21st, 2001: 'Living wage' to some, 'business killer' to others; Santa Monica tourist industry fights ordinance that forces employers to double lowest wages. By Martin Kasindorf, USA Today
March 8th, 2001, The Beat. By John Nichols. The Nation Magazine.
October 1st, 2000: Council Delays Living Wage. Santa Monica Lookout.
May 31st-June 6th, 2001: Loews Hotel Is Target Of Demonstraton. By Carolanne Sudderth, Santa Monica Mirror.
April 19th-25th, 2000: Workers March For Justice On Monday. By Carolanne Sudderth. Santa Monica Mirror.
April 7th-13th, 2000: And Stay Out; Jonathan Club turns away Santa Monica officials. By Jorge Casuso, LA Weekly
April 5th-11th, 2000: Council Defines Differences In Wage Measures. By Carolanne Sudderth, Santa Monica Mirror.
January 21st, 2000: City Hires Lone Bidder and Advocate to Study Living Wage. By Jorge Casuso, Santa Monica LookOut
January 10th, 2000: Living Wage Proponent Submits Only Bid to Study Issue. By Jorge Casuso, Santa Monica LookOut
September 17th, 1999: Proposed ‘living wage' draws strong debate. Cindy Frazier, The Argonaut. Marina del Rey
September 9th, 1999: Raising Santa Monica: Groundbreaking plan would double low-wage pay. By Jorge Casuso, LA Weekly
September 8th, 1999: Proposed Living Wage Study Sparks Rally, Heated Debate. By Jorge Casuso, Santa Monica LookOut
September 3rd, 1999: Guest Editorial: Sustainability, Liveability and the Living Wage. By Michael Feinstein, Santa Monica City Councilmember. Opinion Piece written for the Santa Monica Sun
In 2000-2001 I was also intimately involved precedent-setting ‘labor peace’ approach in Santa Monica, when the owners of what today is the Viceroy Hotel on city land wanted to do a major renovation and the City Council required labor peace in the form of a collective bargaining agreement as a condition of our approval, resulting in a card check process and contract with HERE Local 814. As we know, that labor peace agreement has become a template for many future Development Agreements for new hotels in the City, including the 7th/Wilshire hotel and the two OTO hotels to be built along Ocean Ave.
Then came September 11, 2001 and the subsequent drop in tourism in Santa Monica, when people were afraid to fly.
On October 25, 2001 I joined my colleagues to vote for an ordinance to protect low-wage workers from retaliation for supporting union organizing efforts or higher wages, as thousands of hotel employees were losing their jobs or working reduced hours in response to the slump in tourism.
That same night, I brought the following item to the Council as Mayor, which the council approved that would require nonunion hotels to hire back workers on a seniority basis as the tourism industry improves:
13-O: Request from Mayor Feinstein to direct staff to explore ways to promote and ensure the ability of local workers laid off as a result of the September 11th attacks, to return to their jobs as their respective industries recover from the current economic downturn, and to make recommendations to achieve these ends.
The evening was covered by the LA Times and my agenda item was highlighted:
October 25, 2001: Low-Wage Workers Get Backing for Labor Fights - Unions: Santa Monica adopts protections against retaliation forsupporting organizing or pay raises and makes hotels rehire laid-off staff on a seniority basis. Los Angeles Times.
A few years later in June 2004, I supported the implementation by the City Council of a $11.50 base wage for all City workers in Santa Monica, the first time such a base wage had every been established.
In addition to endorsements from the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 814 in 1996 and 2000, I am proud of my work and relationship with Santa Monica's municipal employees, and to have been endorsed in 2014 by the Coalition of Santa Monica City Employees PAC, the Santa Monica Trade and Maintenance Teamsters Local 11 and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Joint Council 42; and (in 2000) by the Santa Monica Police Officers Association, the Santa Monica Firefighters Association, the Santa Monica Municipal Employees Association and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.