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L.A. hotel strike: Soccer star Lionel Messi cancels stay at Santa Monica hotel in support of strikers

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Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi and other players of the Inter Miami team were slated to stay at a Santa Monica hotel where workers are striking this weekend. But Unite Here Local 11 on Friday said the team is canceling its reservation at the union’s urging that Messi respect a boycott of some 60 Southern California hotels that haven’t signed labor contracts.

Messi is headed to BMO Stadium this Sunday for a game against LAFC. Tickets for the Sunday game skyrocketed when news broke this summer that Messi was joining Inter Miami.

Messi was originally scheduled to check into the Fairmont Miramar on Friday afternoon, said Unite Here Local 11 spokesperson Maria Hernandez.

The hotel is among 13 properties where union members walked off the job Wednesday. That means the soccer players, all members of the MLS Players Assn. union, would have had to cross another union’s picket line to stay at the Fairmont.

The soccer players’ union released a statement Friday afternoon applauding the decision by Inter Miami to change hotels.

“The MLSPA is proud to stand with the striking workers at the Fairmont Miramar and other LA area hotels,” the association said in a social media post. “We urge all of the hotels to reach fair contracts with their workers ASAP.”

Inter Miami representatives Molly Dreska and Rafael Cabrera and Fairmont Miramar Director of Human Resources Ashley Eberhard did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“The housekeepers, cooks, bellmen and servers of the Fairmont Miramar say thank you to the great Lionel Messi and his teammates for agreeing to move from the hotel and stand with the striking workers,” the union said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The previous day, Unite Here Local 11 had publicly called for Messi and his teammates “to stand in solidarity with us and stay out of the Fairmont Miramar.”

“Just two weeks ago, workers at the Fairmont Miramar called for a boycott of their hotel after hotel security officers were videoed violently attacking their own employees while they attempted to establish a picket line,” the union had said.

Picket lines at the Santa Monica hotel have been the site of violent altercations in which workers were injured. Security personnel pushed and tackled picketing hotel workers who appeared to be trying to cross a temporary barricade after a rally by striking workers in early August, according to video footage of the incident.

The union and local elected officials in recent weeks have sharply criticized the Fairmont and several other properties in Los Angeles and Orange counties where violence had flared against strikers.

The union filed a complaint Aug. 7 with the National Labor Relations Board highlighting what it called a pattern of violent incidents and property destruction. The complaint named three hotels — among them the Fairmont Miramar — alleging hotel management had condoned or turned a blind eye to attacks on workers.

Soon after, the union called for a boycott of the Fairmont Miramar as well as Hotel Maya in Long Beach and Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point, the other two hotels named in the complaint. The boycott has since been expanded to include scores of other hotels in talks with the union that have not reached a contract.

Keith Grossman, an attorney with Hirschfeld Kraemer who represents a coalition of 44 hotels involved in talks with Unite Here Local 11, said Monday that the union’s call for a boycott by visitors and conventions will hurt the city and small businesses that depend on conventions.

Asked for comment about Inter Miami’s decision, Grossman reiterated concern that a boycott could damage the city’s reputation for the long term.

“This Union effort regarding Messi and his Team is just one more nonsensical Union effort to drive business away from LA hotels,” Grossman said in an email. “It’s unfortunate for our employees and for the City that Local 11 is focused more on its political agenda than on bargaining. We offered the Union dates to bargain and they have simply ignored us. They are more interested in strikes and boycotts, which is not going to help get us to a settlement.”

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