Thursday, December 27, 2012

Labor Gives Management Bag of Coal at La Playa Carmel Holiday Workers Rally

As the holiday season hit full force at the shopping/vacation destination of Carmel by the Sea, former La Playa Hotel workers continued to remain hopeful that some of those in attendance at a labor rally at the hotel on December 20 would receive back the jobs that they lost over a year ago. Since the hotel re-opened over the summer, after a costly remodeling job initiated by its new owner, only three of the former 113 workers have been re-hired. At the holiday-themed rally there was some buzz around the idea that La Playa Carmel may soon be looking to hire new workers in its housekeeping department.

Former workers have held demonstrations at the hotel for over a year now. One worker who spoke at the holiday rally had been a housekeeper at La Playa for 30 years until she lost her job when the hotel was shutdown and sold in late 2011.

At the rally, workers and community members sang classic Christmas carols that were updated for the labor theme and an organizer with Unite Here Local 483, the union that represents hospitality workers in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out candy from a basket to enthusiastic picketers. 

Some individuals carried and shook bells as they picketed La Playa, and a small group assisted by Santa delivered a bag of coal to hotel management, who brought it inside the hotel only to bring it back out and return it back to demonstrators a few minutes later. 

La Playa's management monitored the noise level of the demonstration with a decibel meter, which they have done at all of the labor rallies held at the hotel since November 1. Additionally, management hired a videographer to videotape the events in their entirety during the labor rallies held by former workers at the hotel on October 17 and November 1. 

Decible Meter

The increased surveillance of the former workers by the hotel's staff was instituted following an incident where a hotel guest reported to Carmel police that two demonstrators at the October 2 workers rally 'touched' him and got in the way of his family and him as they were entering the hotel.

I was on scene for the entire incident, I observed the guest report it to the police, and I videotaped it all. From my perspective, it is clear that no one 'touched' the guest in any way, nor did they prevent his group from entering the hotel.

The events of that day were subsequently blown out of proportion in the local newspaper, the Carmel Pine Cone, which did not have a reporter on scene, but none-the-less reported that an 'assault' had occurred. Quotes in the publication made it unclear whether the La Playa's management was being dishonest in their interview about the incident, whether the hotel guest had modified his story form the police interview to the newspaper interview, or if the paper itself had over-stated the information it received.

The Carmel Police department also appears to have reacted to that incident, and has increased their patrols at the La Playa rallies. Officers have at times parked their vehicles nearby for long periods at a time, as they watch on as workers picket the hotel. This was the case on December 20; officers arrived on scene near the end of the rally. 

It is unclear whether the false allegations and the bad publicity has affected the public's perception of labor's efforts. A boycott of the hotel was announced by the former workers on July 6, and rumors of a low vacancy rate and even a possible closure of La Playa have circulated among those in attendance at the last few rallies.

Unite Here has fought for first right of refusal for the former workers as jobs become available at La Playa, but according to union officials the only offer made by the hotel to accommodate those looking for their jobs back was made several months ago, and was an offer to interview them, without any guarantees.

The December 20 rally saw far less interactions with those apparently arriving to lodge at the hotel, but quite a few guests, some with holiday-season wrapped gifts, arrived for a function that evening.

To view more photos and videos, see the article about the rally I originally published on Indybay:

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