The National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint against J.W. Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot Hotel on Ocean Avenue alleging management threatened employees, reduced their hours and reprimanded them for attempting to organize.

According to the complaint obtained by the Daily Press, the hotel promised employees increased benefits and improved working conditions in October of 2016 if they refrained from organizing. The hotel allegedly pressured housekeepers to clean 15 rooms a shift and withheld holiday bonuses from eight employees who had engaged in union activity.

The hotel’s manager, Columbia Sussex Management, LLC, has until Feb. 9 to respond to the complaint. The Daily Press contacted both Marriott hotels and Columbia Sussex for comment but did not hear back.

Employees voted in November 2016 to join Unite Here Local 11, the union that represents thousands of hotel workers in Santa Monica and across the Los Angeles area.

“We’ve been trying to negotiate with Columbia Sussex managers, but it’s hard to trust the process when they break the law,” said housekeeper and Union Committee member Filadelfia Alcala in a press release from Unite Here. “After we won the vote for the Union the managers started writing up and firing my coworkers. Now, many housekeepers who first pledged for the Union have been fired, forcibly transferred from their job, or written up.”

On Monday, about six Le Merigot employees joined a 7:00 a.m. picket line of two dozen Unite Here members outside the beachfront hotel. The union is still negotiating a contract with the management. Spokesperson Danielle Wilson says they have not voted to strike or boycott but those options remain on the table.

“The picket line is to inform guests and the community about the unfair labor practices that the NLRB is bringing against the hotel,” Wilson said. “They are not allowed to discourage being affiliated with a labor organization.

Earlier this month, workers at the hotel filed claims with the California Labor Commissioner alleging thousands of dollars in lost wages and rest and meal break violations, according to Wilson. The press release from Unite Here included a statement from Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who is running for reelection this year.

“These are the workers whose difficult daily labor enables our thriving hospitality sector, and Santa Monica supports their right to fair, dignified working conditions,” McKeown said. “Both federal and state agencies have been notified of the workers’ struggle, and the employees of Le Merigot are likewise under Santa Monica’s protective wing.”

Unite Here Local 11’s picketing tactics recently drew the attention of the Center for Union Facts, a Washington, D.C. based advocacy group founded by lawyer and former lobbyist Richard Berman. Earlier this month, the interest group launched, where local residents complained about early morning bullhorns. Tourists have complained via travel websites like TripAdvisor about Unite Here picketing at Santa Monica hotels.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press