When management at the Freehand Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles caught wind that workers there were looking to organize with UNITE HERE! Local 11, management responded by threatening to call immigration enforcement on its own employees.
Local 11 was not about to let that slide.
“We are here to let the Freehand owners and management know that these threats have no place in our community,” said Local 11 co-President Kurt Petersen. “In Los Angeles, we do not tolerate Trump-like fear tactics. We will support these workers in their quest to win justice and better lives for their families no matter how long it takes.”
On Wednesday, February 20, dozens of hotel workers, community leaders, labor leaders, clergy and elected officials took part in a march and press conference in front of the Freehand denouncing the hotel’s actions and announcing the filing of a formal request to the Office of Labor Commissioner to investigate the hotel for alleged immigration-related retaliation against its employees for exercising their rights under the California Labor Code.
If found in violation, the Freehand Hotel could have all of its licenses temporarily suspended.
AB 263 prohibits employers from engaging in unfair immigration-related practices against employees in retaliation for exercising their Labor Code rights. For months now, workers at the Freehand have been organizing in response to poor working conditions and possible wage theft. Since then, workers have come forward with stories of anti-worker, and anti-immigrant practices at the hotel. Workers and immigrant rights activists are asking the Office of the Labor Commissioner to investigate whether the Hotel has violated Labor Code provisions prohibiting unfair immigration-related practices. This is one of the first times that the protections for immigrant workers enacted by AB 263 are being put to use in Los Angeles.
“No matter your legal status, we’re all human beings that deserve dignity and respect,” said former State Senator Kevin de Leon. “It’s my hope that those who own this hotel understand that this is a democratic right for individuals to be part of a collective bargaining unit. But when you try to intimidate workers by saying we’re going to call ICE agents on you, you’ve crossed the line.”
The operator of the Freehand Hotel, Sydell Group also operates the LINE Hotel in Koreatown, where workers have a union and are currently in contract negotiations