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