Chateau Marmont workers get union; Farm workers get vote by mail
Recent weeks have witnessed some big wins for California workers! Employees of Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont hotel have secured union membership, while farm workers won the right to vote by mail in union certification elections.
Workers at the Chateau Marmont, famous as a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities, had been seeking to join UNITE HERE Local 11 (the Los Angeles area hotel workers’ union) for years. In a blistering 2020 story, The Hollywood Reporter painted a picture of a toxic work environment in which ill-mannered guests harassed and abused staff, and management treated workers with disrespect. As workers began to organize they encountered mass layoffs attributed to the pandemic. This led to a boycott of the hotel. In December 2021, workers told their story to area faith leaders in a “listening session” hosted by the Catholic Labor Network and LA CLUE at nearby Blessed Sacrament Parish.
On August 25, the union reported:
We are thrilled to announce that UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Chateau Marmont have agreed upon a fair process that determines whether a majority of workers in certain classifications have chosen the union as their representative. A few days ago, after a neutral arbitrator validated the results, the Chateau Marmont promptly recognized UNITE HERE Local 11. All prior disputes have been laid to rest. Both UNITE HERE Local 11 and the Chateau Marmont are pleased with this new relationship. Our bargaining committee will soon commence negotiations for our first contract.
Meanwhile, for years the United Farm Workers have pressed for reforms of union election procedures under California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act. (While most private-sector workers won the right to organize in 1935 under the National Labor Relations Act, farm workers were excluded from NLRA jurisdiction. California is one of the few states that has passed legislation giving farm workers the express right to organize in unions and bargain collectively.) Under the existing law, farm workers were obliged to vote for or against union representation in-person on the grower’s property – conditions ripe for intimidation.
The United Farm Workers called for allowing farm workers to vote by mail in union elections. Last year Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have permitted this. He threatened to take similar action this year, leading the union to organize a farm worker march from Delano to Sacramento under the blazing August sun. The marchers received extensive support from both the California Federation of Labor and the California Catholic Conference, and the Catholic Labor Network organized its Golden State members to write Governor Newsom in support of the bill. In late September, Newsom relented and agreed to sign the bill.
Congratulations to both the Chateau Marmont workers and to California’s farm workers on their hard-fought victories!