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Hotel group files unfair labor practice charges against Unite Here 11

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A bargaining group representing 44 Southern California hotels has filed unfair labor practice charges against the workers’ union with the National Labor Relations Board.

The charges allege Unite Here Local 11 broke the law by attempting to force the hotels into a contract with elements that have nothing to do with their employees and “could harm the Los Angeles tourism industry.”

SEE MORE: Hospitality workers return to work, but more walkouts possible, union says

The move comes after hundreds of hospitality workers picketed 19 Southern California hotels over the July 4th weekend before returning to work July 5. Union officials have warned that more walkouts could occur at 44 other hotels at any time.

The Coordinated Bargaining Group said Unite Here is insisting the hotels support a controversial LA County ballot measure requiring them to house the homeless along with regular guests. They say Unite Here also wants them to impose a 7% tax on guests of unionized hotels as a means of growing Local 11’s footprint outside Los Angeles.

RELATED: What’s behind the workers’ strike at Southern California hotels?

Both of those factors, the group said, would dissuade some travelers from coming to Southern California.

“Insisting that these provisions must be in any contract settlement, and striking to include them is not only unlawful, but is also a real obstacle to reaching agreement on a contract,” said Keith Grossman, a spokesperson for the Coordinated Bargaining Group.

Grossman said Local 11 is not bargaining in good faith and has refused to provide documentation relating to its demands. He added that the union is falsely claiming the Coordinated Bargaining Group’s proposal may not secure employees’ healthcare for the next four years when it actually would.

Pete Hillan, a spokesman for the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, said the homeless mandate and tax issue fall under the purview of city governments — not hotels.

“This is a real head-scratcher,” he said. “And the demand that hotels provide housing for homeless individuals wouldn’t come without wrap-around services that address mental illness, drug addiction and safety precautions for housekeepers.”

Unite Here co-President Kurt Petersen said the hotels are “paying thousands of dollars so attorneys can file frivolous lawsuits” when the money could be better spent on affordable housing so hotel workers could afford to live in Los Angeles.

“The only unhoused people in hotels are the hotel workers who are struggling to pay rent, doubling up, moving further away — and sometimes living in their cars,” he said.

And that 7% tax?

Petersen said that could replace the “junk fees” hotels charge and could be used to fund affordable housing for hospitality workers.

“As everyone knows, hotels have two rates,” he said. “When you book a room it might be $250 a night. But then it becomes $300 when they add in bogus charges for things like wireless service. Everyone knows it’s a scam.”

More than 15,000 Southern California hotel workers voted early last month to authorize a strike as they bargain for a $5-an-hour pay hike, more affordable health care, a secure pension plan and “safe and humane” workloads.

They include room attendants, cooks, dishwashers, front desk agents, servers and food service workers.

The top concern among the employees is the rising cost of housing. In a recent union survey, 53% of workers said they have either moved in the past five years or will be forced to move in the near future because of soaring housing costs.

Christian Morales, a laundry worker at the Hilton Pasadena, makes $20 an hour but says it’s not enough.

“My wife works, too, but our rent is $1,500 a month and we have gas, grocery costs and a $500-month car payment,” he said. “Everything is getting expensive.”

Hillan called the union’s picketing “theatrics.”

“It does harm to union members and to the hotels, and it’s bad for tourism,” he said. “Why would someone come here for a convention when they know they could run into a labor situation?”

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