A Washington, D.C., based group that opposes labor unions across the country had Santa Monica landlines and social media forums buzzing this month with a poll on local attitudes toward hotel workers’ union Unite Here Local 11.

Nearly 58 percent of the 403 likely voters who participated in the mid-February survey said the union should have less influence with the City Council, “knowing that Local 11 supports more hotel development,” according to results shared with the Daily Press. About 65 percent said they would be less likely to support a council member if they knew he or she supported “Local 11’s pro-development agenda.”

“Local 11’s support for skyline-altering hotels has run contrary to public opinion in Santa Monica for years,” said Luka Ladan, communications director for the Center for Union Facts. “But this latest poll suggests that Santa Monica voters are deeply skeptical of the entire Local 11 package – from its self-serving development agenda to the disruptive tactics the union uses to enact it.”

Because they are a 501(c)3 organization, Ladan says his group will not support or oppose particular candidates in the 2018 race for City Council. The Center for Union Facts launched a media campaign in January with the website eyeson11.com, which declared “Local 11 is California’s Worst Union.” Lawyer and former lobbyist Richard Berman founded the non-profit, as well as the Center for Consumer Freedom and the Employment Policies Institute, a fiscally conservative think tank.

Several community members who received the call told the Daily Press they thought the phrasing of the questions was clearly biased against Local 11.

“It seems that the person on the other end of the phone was trying to subtly provide anti-union information and cause people like me to have negative thoughts about the union,” said resident Suzanne Brewer, who took the survey and said she had a “negative reaction” to the question about the City Council. “I despise any union-busting efforts and consider myself pro-union, though, I did find it somewhat irritating when the union bussed in non-union people to undercut the LV ballot measure. But my irritation was not enough to make me stop being a pro-union person.”

“While I do not support further development in our beachside community, I also do not appreciate outside organizations denigrating the important role unions play in bettering the lives of their members,” said resident Cindy Bendat.

Both women believe the call was a “push poll,” a common technique to disseminate negative information about a political opponent under the guise of an opinion survey.

According to results shared with the Daily Press, 40 percent of likely voters said Santa Monica has “just the right amount of hotel development” and 37 percent said the city needs less hotel development. Only 6 percent said the city needed more, ten percent were unsure, and six percent refused to answer the question.

Ladan says Local 11 relies on new developments to continue to build membership rolls. The last of five questions cited Local 11’s “controversial tactics” to put pressure on local hotels.  Nearly 75 percent of respondents said they didn’t support the use of bullhorns and noisy protests.

“Local 11 would be better served listening to local residents than waking them up with early-morning bullhorns and blocking their ocean views in pursuit of more dues revenue,” Ladan said.

The union began a 7 a.m. picket line outside the Le Merigot Marriott Hotel in January while under negotiations with management over employees’ vote to unionize. On Ash Wednesday, local clergy and Councilmember Kevin McKeown joined the protest. Employees at the beachfront hotel voted in November 2016 to join Local 11 and say management responded by threatening workers, reducing their ours and reprimanding them. Local 11 represents thousands of hotel workers in Santa Monica and across the Los Angeles area.



Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press