On June 23rd Matthew Hall made false statements about our Union, UNITE HERE Local 11, and the Santa Monica Daily Press published them. We believe that these false statements were intended to attack the reputation of the union to advance a political goal. That Mr. Hall has a political agenda about the City’s labor peace discussion is his business with the City. That the SMDP published false statements about our Union is unacceptable and causes harm to the members of our organization. Because Mr. Hall is the Editor in Chief of the paper, we have no editorial board to appeal to correct these misstatements. We ask that the Mr. Hall apologize, that the SMDP immediate correct these untrue statements and that paper be transparent with the public about who asked them to attack the Union and where the false information came from.
First Mr. Hall falsely claims that there were no labor conflicts on city property before the Council’s discussion about labor peace. He repeats this incorrect claim three times in one paragraph for effect. But Mr. Hall should know from his own reporting that this is not true. Before the protests at the Spitfire Grill, Mr. Hall reported on a dispute about the Typhoon Restaurant. As a simple google search or fact-checking inquiry to the Union would show, the Santa Monica Lookout and Santa Monica Next both reported on picket lines at the Santa Monica Airport over this dispute in March of 2017. This false statement is central to Mr. Hall’s political argument, because he claims (without evidence), that the cause of protests on city land were the discussions of the Council, which the Typhoon protest disproves.
Second, Mr. Hall makes a number of unsubstantiated statements about the Union’s motivations for picketing the Spitfire Grill. He claims that no worker had asked the Union to be there and that there were no complaints about working conditions. How could he possibly know if this is true? Did he ever try to verify this with the Union? If the workers complained to the Union or supported protest, how would he find out other than by asking the Union? Yet Mr. Hall stated this as fact without presenting evidence in his article. The truth is that Spitfire Grill workers did complain about working conditions and did encourage the Union to be there.
Finally, Mr. Hall claims that local entrepreneurs did not open restaurants at the 5th and Colorado in part because of a “unionization requirement”. I am not aware of any such requirement in the development agreement with the City of Santa Monica for that site, so there may be a misstatement in his premise here, but it is hard to know because he again states this as fact without evidence. What is true is that several local restaurant owners considered this site with the encouragement of the Union. Based on the restaurant operators that have spoken to us, more local restaurants have seriously considered this restaurant space than have chain restaurants, again contradicting Mr. Hall’s assertion. Most local restaurant operators that have decided not to open in this space told us that they did so because of individual business considerations like rent, space design, or parking. The Union has tried to be transparent in explaining where our information came from, so where did Mr. Hall get his information? I don’t think this misinformation came from the owner of the property, so who is saying these things? Was this information given to him by a lobbying organization with an anti-union agenda? Who did the fact-checking? This final claim about the 5th and Colorado space is especially dangerous because if a misstatement ends up discouraging operators from considering the space there will be actual economic harm to workers and the city not from any actual disagreement but from misinformation.
Mr. Hall made a political argument and attacked the character of the Union to make his point. He made false statements as part of that attack. We know that picketing can be controversial, and we respect that he disagrees with us about our actions. But a newspaper should do fact-based, fair journalism that seeks to present an even-handed account of the positions of the parties involved in a disagreement. Editors should demand that their staff check their facts and have enough discussion with all sides of a conflict that they can accurately represent their point of view. We do not know why Mr. Hall wrote what he did, or if he was the source of the false information or if it came from a person or organization with an anti-union agenda. The public deserves to know.
Thank you for your consideration,
UNITE HERE Local 11