Andaz Staff Walk Out Over Union Organizer Arrest

Mess with one UNITE HERE organizer and you draw the wrath of the entire team.

The Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood learned this lesson the hard way last week when workers left their job for a one-day strike over the arrest of an organizer at the property one week earlier.

Nerexda Soto, who is working as an organizer UNITE HERE Local 11 while on leave from her job at the Hyatt Regency, Long Beach was speaking to employees at the Hyatt Andaz employee cafeteria.  She was approached by four Los Angeles Sheriffs officers and taken into custody.

Union administrators contend that, per a provision in their contract, organizers are permitted access to employee areas so Soto should not have been hassled, much less taken away in handcuffs.

In addition to filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, UNITE HERE staged a walkout starting at 6 am on Tuesday. Most of the 115 Andaz workers participated. A special program and picket took place later that afternoon.

“The actions taken by the Hyatt Andaz management against Nerexda Soto in having her arrested were used to send a message to the Hyatt workers. That message failed,” said Local 11 Co-President Kurt Peterson. “Workers at the Hyatt Andaz came together in unity to let Hyatt know that these types of actions will not be tolerated. When they go after one of us, they go after all of us. When they arrest one of us, they arrest all of us. Hyatt workers will continue to stand up and fight back until the Andaz is a place of dignity and respect for all people. ”

Soto’s arrest and subsequent work stoppage drew the support of workers from other hotels as well as CLUE, AFSCME Local 3299 and Roofers Local 36. Several community officials including State Senator Ben Allen and the City of West Hollywood’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board also attended and took part in the program.

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