(Feb. 20, 2007) -- Political guerilla warfare is visible and audible with an approaching Feb. 26 deadline by which a Hospitality Alliance (representing the non-unionized Airport Marriott and Hyatt Regency LB hotels) intends to submit beyond the 20,000+ valid petition signatures from LB-registered voters needed to suspend and let voters decide on a union-backed, Council-passed (5-3, DeLong, Gabelich, Lerch dissenting) "labor peace" ordinance affecting hotels on City-owned property.
On Sunday morning, Feb. 19, we watched from a distance as a first amendment duel played out outside the Los Altos Target store on Bellflower Blvd. south of 405 freeway.
We saw a petition-gatherer (center in photo, taken from sidewalk off property) offer petitions to LB registered voters while an anti-petition advocate (to left in photo) stood alongside displaying a color-printed leaflet with the words "Please Don't Sign This Petition. Let's Keep the No Strike Agreement" with a red circle/red-line "no" symbol over an image of a hand with a pencil. She stood close-by but didn't touch the petition gatherer or people who approached the gatherer.
When we walked up to the store, we saw another anti-petition advocate, a young man, who was more outspoken. As the petition gatherer approached an exiting store shopper, he followed -- again, not touching the petition gatherer or the potential petition signer -- while volunteering verbal comments. "Don't sign it...She's paid for the signatures she gets...She's backed by the hotels." His tone of voice was insistent but not angry; his comments targeted the measure.
The anti-petition advocates appeared disciplined. When we asked for a copy of their flier, they ignored us (perhaps because we hadn't tried to sign the petition; we managed to get a copy of their flier elsewhere).
In the few minutes we were present, we saw mixed results. Two entering shoppers appeared put-off by the anti-petition advocates. After listening to the anti-petition advocate, one woman told him, "This needs to go to the voters" and defiantly signed the petition. A man standing nearby nodded his head...and he signed the petition.
However, an exiting shopper regaled by the more outspoken of the two anti-petition advocates didn't sign the petition. The anti-petition advocate responded with happy "Si se puede! Si se puede!" (Yes, it's possible).
The net effect was hard to gauge. While some voters appeared to sign the petition partially to defy the anti-petition drive, the petition gatherer was slowed because she couldn't approach other potential signers while the anti-petition advocate engaged the potential petition signer who'd approached the petition gatherer.
The leaflet carried by the anti-petition advocate said at the bottom, "It's good for Hotel Workers. It's good for Taxpayers. For more information, contact UNITEHERE local 681" (with an OC telephone number).
The Unite Here! union represents workers at other hotels and area venues and urged Council passage of the ordinance. As previously reported by LBReport.com, State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) recently recorded a telephone message, backed by Unite Here!, urging LB residents not to sign the petitions.
Last year, Unite Here! spent roughly $30,000 as an independent expenditure (not candidate controlled) to successfully help elect Senator Lowenthal's daughter-in-law, then-incumbent School Board president Suja Lowenthal, to the City Council. Once on the Council, Councilwoman Lowenthal voted for the union-backed labor peace agreement...as did her mother-in-law, Vice Mayor/Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal.
Meanwhile, LBReport.com has learned that 3rd district Councilman Gary DeLong has weighed in on the subject. Using his personal, non-City Hall, non-taxpayer email address, he sent emails to a number of LB residents, stating in part:
When it was time for me to vote on the Labor Peace Agreement issue at the recent council meeting, I asked myself one question, "Does a Labor Peace Agreement benefit residents and/or businesses in the City of Long Beach?". When I realized the answer was "No", I also realized that it was nothing more than a "Labor Organizing Agreement".
Contrary to what you may have heard, a Labor Peace Agreement does not provide any revenue to the City of Long Beach. The Hotels don't realize any benefit, nor do the workers. In fact, a Long Beach based business (and its Long Beach employees) that provides workers to the hotel industry will be harmed. Because they are not unionized, hotels would be barred from using their workforce. The only ones that benefit is a Labor Union from LA called "Unite Here".
If you would like to support the petition process, please let me know and a petition will be provided to you for your signature. The purpose of the petition is to require that this item be placed on the ballot for a vote of the people at the next regularly scheduled election (June 2008).
The email, signed "Gary" and sent from his personal, non-taxpayer paid email address, includes an email signature listing his non-City Hall work-office telephone number and fax, identifies him as the 3rd district Councilmember and mentions his City Hall web site [which doesn't mentioning the petition drive].
DeLong told LBReport.com, "You know, I had been content to let the petition process work, but frankly I've become concerned about disruption of the petition process. Any disruption of that process is a concern for me."
In the middle of the petition effort is LB consultant Mike Murchison, spokesman for the Hospitality Alliance. "We have every intention of succeeding in our petition drive and we plan to prevail," he told LBReport.com on Sunday afternoon Feb. 19.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) has recorded -- and the Unite Here! union is backing -- telephone messages urging LB voters not to sign petitions. In rough paraphrase, the recorded messages open with a self-introduction (along the lines of "This is Senator Alan Lowenthal") who calls the Council-passed ordinance a good measure and urges the telephone message recipient not to sign petitions.
Unite Here Local 681 currently 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) and also represents workers at the LB Yacht Club, LB's Petroleum Club and several LB restaurants, the union's Local web site says.