The City of Beverly Hills has filed a lawsuit against Unite Here Local 11 over early morning noise levels associated with the union’s ongoing picket lines at hotels.

While Santa Monica’s City Attorney has previously said union protests are largely exempt from local noise rules, the rules in Beverly Hills and the union’s alleged actions differ from events in Santa Monica.

Beverly Hills is asking a judge to limit noise from protests at the Beverly Hilton and Waldorf Astoria hotels between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. in accordance with the City’s noise ordinances. The lawsuit alleges several violations of those restrictions in recent weeks.

According to the complaint, the Beverly Hills Police Department (BHPD) received its first complaint on June 15 when residents complained about noise starting at 5:30 a.m. including “the banging of drums, whistles being blown, and shouting and screaming.”

Officers spoke to the union representative at the time and asked them to reduce their noise levels during the early morning hours.

On July 24, Beverly Hills City Manager Nancy Hunt-Coffey, received similar complaints and she also spoke with protesters about the noise levels. Officials had a third conversation with the protesters on July 26 and BHPD has responded to several other complaints at the hotels.

According to BHPD, hotel staff have filed complaints about “aggressive confrontations, bullhorns blown in ears, blocked traffic, and screaming in faces, between security personnel and other employees.” Police have also received a report of battery on the property when protesters broke through a barricade and injured a security guard.

In addition to asking for a time restriction on noise, the City is asking the court for reasonable attorney’s fees.

“It is beyond outrageous that the City of Beverly Hills is using its resources to stifle the first-amendment protected protest activity of low-wage, immigrant workers,” said union co-president Kurt Petersen.”These are workers who make its luxury hotels run and who are simply seeking a living wage. The City should be helping to lift them up, not attack them with baseless lawsuits.”

Hotel workers are protesting over stalled contract negotiations that would increase wages for workers. In the meantime the union has filed multiple ballot measures across the county (including in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica) to increase the minimum wage for hotel workers to $30 an hour.

The Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) responded to similar calls from both sides of the conflict, including the union, hotel management, and nearby residents during the protest.

Complaints range from physical altercations, intimidation, trespassing, harassment, and obstructing sidewalks, among other issues. Local nuisance reports, such as excessive noise and municipal code violations, are being referred to the City Attorney and Code Enforcement.

Local tensions reached a peak recently with a video-taped conflict between protesters and security guards at the Fairmont Miramar hotel. In the video, security guards are seen pinning protesters to the sidewalk to prevent them from accessing the hotel driveway. Unite Here has filed a complaint with the state regulators over the incident.

While the ongoing protest activity might inconvenience neighbors, Santa Monica’s noise laws include exemptions for such demonstrations.

Santa Monica’s noise ordinance states that noises or sounds should not unreasonably disturb peace or cause discomfort for people of normal sensitivity. Specific volume limits vary based on the neighborhood type, and there are restrictions on amplified sound in public areas during certain hours.

City Attorney Doug Sloan previously emphasized the legal protections for First Amendment expression and labor picketing. He mentioned that activities related to conveying messages, including playing drums, are specifically safeguarded by law. Furthermore, Santa Monica’s local code includes exemptions for non-commercial outdoor activities, including picketing between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. in commercial zones on public property.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...