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From LABOR-L@YORKU.CA Sun Aug 13 06:30:39 2000
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2000 14:55:01 EDT
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Subject: Labour Diputes - Los Angeles
X-UIDL: d9c919e48362081ed2e936b2bf736406

Labour Disputes - Los Angeles

12 August 2000

I asked yesterday about a colleague's report that union musicians would protest the use of non-union musicians at the Democratis National Convention. No confirmation/rejection of that allegation, but I was sent the following article. There is no author, journal nor publication date given and I forward it "for what it is worth":

LOS ANGELES - Democratic delegates to next week's convention are arriving in Los Angeles to find themselves embroiled in a series of embarrassing confrontations.

Disputes between labour and big money, and accusations of police paranoia, are combining with the threat posed by thousands of protesters to set the scene for strife and dissension.

Democratic Los Angeles is anxious to present a positive image during its week in the international spotlight, but many fear the good intentions and political correctness will burst like biodegradable balloons in the face of the ideological and physical clashes.

One of the most sensitive and mortifying issues for the supposedly pro-union Democrats concerns Loews seafront hotel in Santa Monica, 19 kilometres from the convention centre, which is being used as the headquarters of the Democratic Congressional Committee. Loews Hotel is currently involved in a fight with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, which is seeking to organize about 300 housekeepers and other service workers.

Jonathan Tisch, the CEO of Lowes Hotels and an heir to the US$21-billion Tisch family fortune, is an old friend of Al Gore's and a long-time political donor, contributing more than US$150,000 over the past two years to Mr. Gore and the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Tisch also spearheaded several New York fundraising efforts that gathered millions of dollars for Gore political action committees.

Union activists are furious that Mr. Gore, who portrays himself as an ally of organized labour, has not intervened to settle the dispute, which is among the most heated labour conflicts in the Los Angeles area.

Anger intensified last week when financial statements revealed the hotel was the biggest single contributor to an effort to stop a labour-backed living wage ordinance in Santa Monica.

"We see this a life-and-death fight for the living wage movement," said Vivian Rothstein, an organizer for HERE. "This is an opportunity for Gore to come forward and take a stand."

One HERE union activist added: "The Loews situation crystallizes the contradictions between the ownership of the Democratic Party and the guiding philosophy and ideals on which it was founded. It's all there. It's a crucible of what happens when profit meets principle."

The hotel workers' protest is supported by the Santa Monica City Council and half a dozen local congressional Democrats.

The hotel is already besieged with protesters -- 60 were arrested there on Thursday -- and the Rev. Jesse Jackson will lead a rally tomorrow where the speakers are expected to include Richard Gephardt, House Democratic leader, who is staying at a unionized hotel.

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign committee said they may move from Loews if the dispute is not settled by Monday, but hotel rooms at are a premium. Spokesman Erik Smith said: "The national convention committee assigned us that hotel and now it's their responsibility to resolve the situation. We don't want to cross picket lines."

Even getting to Los Angeles is proving to be an embarrassment for the Democrats as the convention's "official airline," United Airlines, is embroiled in a labour dispute with its pilots and mechanics that has led to delays of up to 20 hours and the cancellation of thousands of flights.

Many conventioneers have been forced to switch their flights to other airlines to avoid what Rono Dutta, the president of United Airlines, acknowledges is a "tremendous nightmare" for passengers.

The company blames its problems largely on labour strife involving the pilots, who are seeking better pay and working conditions and began rejecting overtime work when their contract came up for renewal in April.

United has cancelled about 4,800 flights since May.

While controversies swirl around the Democrats, the city's Republican Mayor Richard Riordan helped roll out the red carpet for the benefit of photographers at the Staples Center, the downtown site of the convention, and promised that the city is "ready to shine in the world's spotlight."

Many businesses, however, are closing their doors and boarding up their premises, fearing violence.

All the trees around the Staples Center have been cut down to prevent them being used as weapons and workers have also removed shrubs and landscaping that could be set on fire.

Police tactics have already become the subject of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which accuses the Los Angeles Police Department of conducting "unlawful harassment" of activists. It claims that as well as keeping potential demonstrators under constant surveillance, officers have being issuing jaywalking tickets to protest organizers.

Police are hoping to confine most of the demonstrators to a barricaded "protest pit," but some militants have announced they plan to take to the streets.

As local television reporter Eric Spillman commented: "We know what's going to happen inside the arena -- Al Gore will be nominated for president-- but the big question is what's going to happen outside?"

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