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    Council Votes 5-3 (DeLong, Gabelich, Lerch Dissenting) To Enact "Labor Peace" Measure Governing Hotels On City-Owned Property; Threatened Litigation Looms

    (Dec. 13, 2006) -- Despite threatened litigation by two major LB hotel operators, and following a closed session with LB's City Attorney, the LB City Council has voted 5-3 (DeLong, Gabelich, Lerch dissenting) to give final approval to a "Labor Peace" ordinance requiring hotels operating on city-owned land (when their lease is renewed or modified) to sign an agreement with labor organizations seeking to represent the hotel's hospitality workers.

    Following the vote, LB consultant Mike Murchison, speaking for the hotel operators ("Hospitality Alliance") opposed to the measure, told that "the Council majority's action will cost taxpayers a minimum of a million dollars"...and added that this was "money that could provide the equivalent of eight police officers or fill lots of potholes."

    Mr. Murchison said the Hospitality Alliance "fully believes it will prevail in court and is willing to take this issue to the highest levels," adding that "there is also strong consideration for a referendum" [a petition initiated method to invite Council repeal of the ordinance or require a public vote on it.]

    The motion to approve the measure at the Dec. 12 Council meeting was made by Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal, and seconded by 2d district Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal. Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal's June election to the City Council was supported by a nearly $35,000 independent expenditure [money not controlled by candidate or her campaign] by "Vota 100%," a sponsored political committee of "UNITE HERE!," a union whose local affiliate (LB-OC) sought to enact a Labor Peace agreement in LB.

    UNITE HERE Local 681 represents hotel workers, housekeepers, bellmen, servers, cooks, dishwashers, and other hotel employees and restaurant workers at two hotels on city-owned property (Coast LB Hotel and Queen Mary)...but currently doesn't represent workers at the downtown Hyatt Regency and LB Airport Marriott (also on city owned property). The union local also represents workers at the LB Yacht Club, LB's Petroleum Club and several LB restaurants, its website indicates.

    As enacted, the Labor Peace measure enacted by the Council states in pertinent part:

    The City shall not execute any new Lease, Lease Amendment, or Lease Assignment with a Hospitality Operations Lessee [defined elsewhere as "any company with a lease from the City for a hotel or motel, providing lodging and other guest accommodations"] unless and until the Hospitality Operations Lessee has signed a labor peace agreement with any Labor Organization seeking to represent Hospitality Workers at the premises covered by the Lease . Each labor peace agreement must contain a No-Strike Pledge.

    After months of committee hearings, the Labor Peace agreement was brought to the full Council in mid-November as one of the final acts of now-former 6th district Councilwoman Laura Richardson after she'd won election to the 55th Assembly district. The measure was approved on its November first reading on a 5-2 vote (DeLong, Lerch dissenting) before Richardson departed the Council (her former 6th district Council seat is now vacant).

    Critics charged that the "Labor Peace" measure amounts to City Hall interfering in management-labor matters by giving the union a de facto organizing tool. Lawyers for the hotel lessees contend this violates federal labor law [interfering in employees' right to decide whether or not to be represented] and violates the hotels' leases with City Hall.

    As recited in its text, the measure's stated purpose is:

    The City of Long Beach has a financial and proprietary interest in hospitality operations that lease real property from the City . These operations base their lease, rental or license payments to the City in part on the revenue they generate . Therefore, it is essential that these operations conduct business efficiently and without interruption . The City has found that the efficient and uninterrupted operation of hospitality operations may be threatened by labor disputes . The City's investment in these operations must be shielded from any impact that labor disputes may have on the revenue of these hospitality operations. The City has further found that the City can only protect its investment by requiring its hotel operations lessees to sign contracts with the labor organizations that represent employees in the hospitality industry . These contracts will prohibit the labor organizations and its members from engaging in picketing, work stoppages, boycotts or other economic interference with the business of the hospitality operators, for the duration of their lease with the City.

    As the measure wound its way through months of Council committee hearings, the "Hospitality Alliance" fought a pitched battle to dilute or stop the measure. At one point, LB's City Attorney office indicated publicly that it would feel more comfortable with more diluted text..but also indicated that it will defend the measure as enacted...which it may well have to do.

    Dec. 12 Council action on the item opened with Mayor Bob Foster and City Attorney Bob Shannon indicating that City Hall had received specific threats of litigation on the matter...and the Council went into closed session. When Councilmembers returned, Councilman Gary DeLong made a motion to send the item to the Council's federal legislation committee.

    Vice Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal made a substitute motion, seconded by Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal, to adopt the Labor Peace ordinance in the form it was approved on first reading in November...and it passed. Yes: B. Lowenthal, S. Lowenthal, O'Donnell, Schipske, Reyes Uranga. No: DeLong, Gabelich, Lerch. Vacant: 6th district.

    Hospitality Alliance advocate Murchison said after the vote, "The action taken by the majority of the Council is something that taxpayers need to wake up to. This is not the best use of the city's funds and is strictly a union device to unionize hotels on city property [LB Hyatt and Airport Marriott] and "is also a violation of their existing lease with the city."

    And Murchison signed off with a personal comment [separate from the Hospitality Alliance]. "I've lived here all my life, and in my opinion, this leads us down the road to 'living wage' and other issues that are business unfriendly to the citizens of Long Beach." He added, "Do we really want to be like Los Angeles?"

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