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Provision Added to Hotel Ordinance Sparks Widely Differing Views
1900 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90405
By Jorge Casuso
August 21, 2019 -- Adding a worker retention provision to Santa Monica's proposed hotel workers ordinance will help the city maintain its status as a world-class tourism destination or boost room rates by stifling competition.
A staff report for next Tuesday's long-anticipated City Council vote on a hotel workers ordinance airs the two vastly opposing views offered by Unite HERE Local 11 and the Hotel Association of Los Angeles.
The provision, which was hastily added to the proposed ordinance by the Council this month, would protect workers in the event a hotel changes management or ownership, staff said.
"When corporate ownership or management of a hotel changes, the new operator may close the hotel for renovations and reopen with a new workforce," staff wrote in its report to the Council.
This would result in "displacing hundreds of employees and increasing the demand on social services provided by the City and other governments."
The provision proposed by staff would mandate local hotels to implement procedures "to notify hotel workers of a change in control" and to "establish a transition period for a successor hotel to retain hotel workers from the incumbent hotel."
Local 11 views the proposed provision as an important addition to an ordinance that was initially drafted to protect workers from sexual violence and heavy workloads.
It warns that corporate ownership or management changes "occur frequently in the hotel industry and can undermine the City’s interest in maintaining its status as a world-class tourism destination," according to the staff report.
"Since the City relies on hotel workers to ensure a safe, clean, and enjoyable experience for its millions of visitors, Local 11 believes the City should take the measures necessary to prevent disruptions to the hotel labor market," staff wrote.
The provision, union officials said, should require hotels to "post a notice of change of control within five business days" and "maintain a preferential hiring list as provided by the incumbent hotel employer."
The Hotel Association counters that employee retention "has never been an issue as the result of a hotel sale" in Santa Monica, staff said.
According to the association, ten hotels have been sold in the past decade, representing 36.7 percent of all rooms in Santa Monica and approximately 800 housekeeping positions.
According to the association, a quarter of the City's hotels have at least one housekeeping position open, and several have multiple openings.
"This speaks to the difficulty of retaining hotel housekeepers in Santa Monica rather than a lack of incentive to do so."
The association believes the proposed provision "interferes with the basic right of employers to decide who to employ," staff said.
"Moreover, the association contends that this provision will likely lead to less competition and an increase in costs that would be passed onto the consumer," staff said.
Nearly a year in the making, the proposed ordinance requires hotels to install "panic buttons" in all guest rooms, protects housekeepers from "unreasonable workloads" and provides comprehensive education and training.
The ordinance would cover the estimated 2,100 hotel housekeepers in Santa Monica's 41 hotels and motels ("City to Draft Groundbreaking Ordinance Protecting Santa Monica Hotel Workers from Sexual Violence," October 26, 2018).
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