CITY HALL — A large hospitality union is getting behind incumbent Kevin McKeown and former Planning Commission member Frank Gruber in the race for City Council.
Unite Here Local 11 announced its endorsement of the two candidates on Friday afternoon.
The union has successfully negotiated labor agreements with developers in the early stages of many recent projects.
“We chose Frank and Kevin because they both have a strong history of standing alongside us,” said Derek Smith, political director of Unite Here, in a release. “Their longtime support of living wages, affordable housing, and job creation is a commitment to the idea that Santa Monica is a diverse, inclusive community where people can join the middle class and raise families.”
McKeown and Gruber were the top vote-getters in the Santa Monica for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) political convention earlier this year — thanks in part to preliminary support from union members who attended the convention. SMRR is the city’s largest political party and most candidates who receive endorsements from the group go on to win a seat. No council candidates had vote totals high enough to get an endorsement this year.
SMRR’s Steering Committee, however, pledged its support for McKeown and Planning Commission member Jennifer Kennedy.
A union endorsement committee of hotel workers interviewed candidates at the end of July, according to a release from Unite Here.
The Daily Press obtained part of a questionnaire the union presented to candidates, asking whether they would support or oppose a series of projects that are in the development pipeline. Projects included the Fairmont Miramar expansion, the project designed to replace the Wyndham Hotel by the Santa Monica Pier, the Bergamot Station Art Center project, and the Ocean Avenue project slated to be designed by Frank Gehry.
“I’m a hotel worker, and Santa Monica renter,” said Jackie Martin of the Le Meridien Delfina in a release. “I support Kevin and Frank because they are both candidates that support preserving rent control, creating affordable housing, and maintaining strong local hiring and job training programs for Santa Monica’s hospitality industry.”
McKeown was endorsed by Unite Here in his previous four elections.
“Santa Monica’s commitment to economic justice for working families is exemplified by UNITE HERE’s struggle for fair wages and working conditions for the workers in our local hotels and restaurants,” McKeown said. “We in Santa Monica want a hospitality industry we can be proud of, not one carried on the backs of low-wage workers and their children. I’m proud to have stood by our hotel workers since the mid 90s, and welcome their support as we fight on for fairness.”
Gruber was also appreciative for the union’s nod of approval.
“For going on two decades, the brave hotel workers of Santa Monica been on the front lines working for social and economic justice, and I am both proud and humbled to receive the UNITE HERE Local 11 endorsement,” he said in an e-mail.
There are three contested seats in this year’s election. One of those seats is open; Bob Holbrook announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection. Unite Here will not make a third endorsement, according to union officials.
Board of Education
Unite Here endorsed incumbents Ralph Mechur, Oscar de la Torre, and Laurie Lieberman, along with former SMRR co-chair Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.
Unite Here is particularly interested in the Board of Education race because they are in dispute with the ownership of the DoubleTree Hotel & Suites, a non-union hotel that sits on school district-owned property, over treatment of workers.
“After the interviews, I was confident that these candidates had the leadership experience necessary to improve the situation of workers and the District by fixing the ambiguous lease that the District has with the hotel,” said DoubleTree banquet server Joe Silva in the release.
Unite Here endorsed Maria Loya, Nancy Greenstein, and Louise Jaffe for the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees.