California Fast Food and Health Care Workers Poised to Win Major Salary Increases

 Nearly 1 million California workers are poised to win major salary increases after labor unions flexed their collective muscle in the state’s Democratic-led Legislature on Monday following a summer of high-profile strikes in the entertainment and hospitality industries.

Most of the state’s 500,000 fast food workers would be paid at least $20 per hour next year under a new bill aimed at ending a standoff between the industry and labor unions over wages and working conditions. About 455,000 health care workers — not doctors and nurses, but the people who do everything else at hospitals, dialysis clinics and other facilities — will see their salaries rise to at least $25 per hour over the next 10 years in a separate bill.

Both proposals must first pass the state Legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom. But the proposals have the blessing of both labor unions and industry groups, clearing the path for passage this week before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

An added bonus for voters: The November 2024 ballot will be a little less crowded. The fast food industry has agreed to withdraw its referendum on a fast food law that Newsom signed last year.

The bills, both introduced Monday, are just some of the impressive run of results for labor unions in the state Legislature this year. Also on Monday, the state Assembly voted to advance a proposal to give striking workers unemployment benefits — a policy change that could eventually benefit Hollywood actors and writers and Los Angeles-area hotel workers who have been on strike for much of this year.

“I think fast food cooks and cashiers have fundamentally changed the politics of wages in this country and have reshaped what working people believe is possible when they join together and take on corporate power and systemic racism,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the Service Employees International Union.

California’s minimum wage is already among the highest in the country at $15.50 per hour. The fast food bill would increase that minimum wage to $20 per hour for workers at restaurants in California that have at least 60 locations nationwide — with an exception for restaurants that make and sell their own bread, like Panera Bread.

The bill will affect about 500,000 fast food workers in California, according to the Service Employees International Union, which has been working to unionize fast food workers in the state. They include Ingrid Vilorio, who works at a Jack In The Box in the San Francisco Bay Area. She said the raise will help her family, who until recently was sharing a house with two other families to afford rent.

“A lot of us (in the fast-food industry) have to have two jobs to make ends meet. This will give us some breathing space,” said Vilorio, who also works as a nanny.

The $20 hourly wage would be a starting point. The nine-member Fast Food Council, which would include representatives from the restaurant industry and labor, would have the power to increase that minimum wage each year by up to 3.5% or the change in the U.S. consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, whichever is lower.

The wage increase for health care workers is more complicated. Their salaries will rise gradually over the next decade, depending on where they work. Workers for large health care facilities and dialysis clinics will see their pay jump to at least $23 per hour next year, increasing to $25 per hour by 2026. Workers at rural hospitals with lots of Medicaid patients would have their salaries increase to at least $18 per hour next year, with 3.5% increases each year until it reaches $25 per hour in 2033.

Workers at community clinics will see their salaries rise to at least $21 per hour in 2024 before peaking at $25 per hour in 2027. Salaries at all other covered health care facilities will increase to at least $21 per hour next year before reaching $25 per hour by 2028.

“Everyone in the healthcare sector understands that we have a workforce crisis, and that wages are the essential prerequisite for any solution,” said Tia Orr, executive director of the Service Employees International Union-California. “With this increase, more workers will join and stay in the healthcare workforce, and as a result Californians will be safer and better cared for.”

It’s unusual, but not unprecedented, for states to have minimum wages for specific industries. Minnesota lawmakers created a council to set wages for nursing home workers. In 2021, Colorado announced a $15 minimum wage for direct care workers in home and community-based services.

In California, most fast food workers are over 18 and the main providers for their family, according to Enrique Lopezlira, director of the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center’s Low Wage Work Program. Just over 75% of health care workers in California are women, and 76% are workers of color, according to a study published earlier this year by the UC Berkely Labor Center.

Hospitals support the bill in part because it “ensures that wages for health care workers are set by the state, creating greater equity for all of California’s health care workforce,” said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association.

The fast food industry benefits by stopping two proposals they say would have made it much harder for restaurants to operate in California. Labor unions agreed to withdraw a bill that would have held big fast food corporations like McDonald’s liable for the misdeeds of their independent franchise operators in the state.

And Democrats in the state Legislature agreed to strip funding for the Industrial Welfare Commission, an agency that has the power to set wage and workplace standards for multiple industries.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California Could Add More Paid Sick Days for Workers. Here’s How Much Time They Would Get

California lawmakers stood in the vanguard in 2014 when they mandated that workers be allowed three days of sick pay annually, but more than a dozen other states have since enacted more generous sick leave policies than that one.

Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, said it’s time that California increase the amount of mandated sick time, and she has introduced Senate Bill 616 to get it done. Initially, the measure would have mandated at least seven days of sick pay, but Gonzalez amended the bill last week to say at least five days.

COVID-19 left people unable to work for significant periods, Gonzalez said, and federal and state laws ensured they got the supplemental recovery time and sick pay to avoid infecting co-workers and suffering financial setbacks. Even now, it can take five days or longer for COVID-19 to clear the body, supporters say.

“Families no longer have the temporary protections afforded by COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, which ended last year,” Gonzalez said. “This back-to-school season, let’s commit to ensuring that parents can take the sick leave they need to take care of their health and the health of their children.”

A coalition of employer groups opposed the legislation, saying that many small businesses are still in survival mode because of financial setbacks they incurred during the pandemic.

“Despite the economic struggles that businesses have faced recently, the number of overlapping leaves has grown over the last few years and continues to grow,” they wrote in letters to legislators. “Some are paid and some are unpaid, but even unpaid leaves increase costs on employers because the employer must either shift the work to other existing employees on short notice, which leads to overtime pay, or be understaffed.”

They also pointed to an estimate from the workforce solution company Circadian that said unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly employee in this state.

Poll: Small business owners support 7 days

In July, though, the Small Business Majority said that its polling on SB 616 found that an overwhelming majority of small business owners, some 85%, support expanding guaranteed annual paid sick days from three days to as many as seven. The organization noted that owners have concerns about their employees’ finances as well as their own.

Kim Robinson, who manages two health clinics in Stockton for Community Medical Centers, said she has long supported SB 616 as a wellness advocate but that she now is facing a sick time challenge at work that has shown her just how crucial this measure is.

Robinson’s employer allows the 56 hours of sick time that SB 616 initially required, she said, and even so, she has struggled to accommodate the demands of caring for not only herself but also an adult child and a parent who both have ongoing medical conditions.

Robinson said she believes her story encapsulates what many workers experience as they try to hold down jobs that provide the income their families need to survive while also trying to care for ailing relatives.

A Community Medical employee for five years, Robinson said she feared the company would fire her for taking excessive time off after her mother’s health deteriorated two years ago. She was running through her sick time and, although her company’s sick leave exceeded the state-mandated time, she knew it wouldn’t be enough last year.

The thing about sick time, she said, is that if you use all those hours up, you have to wait until you can accrue more time before you can take leave. With her mother’s condition, she said, emergencies and unexpected urgent needs had cropped up.

Robinson decided last year that it would probably be best to apply for an intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. If workers have qualifying reasons, and Robinson’s case did, this law entitles them to take unpaid, job-protected time off to care for themselves or family members.

If workers have earned paid time off, FMLA allows them to use it rather than going without a check. Robinson had acquired as much as 224 hours by early this year.

Community Medical approved Robinson’s FMLA request last year, and before it expired this summer, the company’s human resources team reached out to her and asked if she wanted to renew it. Robinson assured them that she did, and at their request, supplied them with information from her mother’s physician explaining how much time she might need.

“Her provider put in that it could be up to 40 hours a week, up to eight hours a day. This isn’t saying that this is what’s going to happen,” Robinson said. “It is just giving guidelines that, if it needs to happen, I’m able to take that time off, and it will fall under the Family Medical Leave Act so that my hours are protected and can’t be used against me as I’m taking excessive time off and be terminated from my job.”

Fear of losing employment haunted worker

Robinson feared losing her job even as she earned fresh accomplishments. Last month, for instance, one of her health centers earned the highest possible marks on two inspections, a scheduled one by the California Department of Public Health and a surprise one by the joint commission that accredits her company’s clinics.

She recalled how the auditor from the joint commission chuckled and said, “I can’t find anything that you guys are doing wrong.”

The clinic, based at Stockton’s Dorothy L. Jones Family Resource Center, was 100% compliant, Robinson said, and while other Community Medical Centers clinics also had gone through surprise inspections, none of them had earned that high a score. She managed this without the help of the two medical assistant leads who normally help her run the clinics she manages: One had gotten a promotion, and the other had taken some time off.

Despite the wins, Robinson said, her worst fear came true when she received emails from her company telling her that they could not accommodate the leave time spelled out in her intermittent FMLA and that they were placing her on an unpaid leave of absence until Sept. 20. At that time, the note said, the company would reassess how to proceed.

No one called to discuss this decision, Robinson said, and no one has yet returned her calls and emails for more information.

In a statement sent to The Bee, the company did not address Robinson’s specific case. The Department of Labor said they would need more information to determine whether Community Medical’s actions were legal.

Robinson said she was left with unanswered questions as her company email was disabled: Would she be able to pay her rent or her daughter’s college tuition? What would she do if she exhausted all her paid time off and had none left when her mother needed her to be there for eight hours or more every day?

Still, Robinson fielded staff calls for direction and, after scheduled vacation time, she said, she returned to the office because she had never requested the unpaid leave. Her teams at both clinics were relieved but surprised to see her, Robinson said, because other staff told them she’d been fired.

Undeterred, Robinson messaged her supervisor and told her that she was not on leave and had not requested to take a week off for FMLA time. Another manager had been assigned to cover her clinics, Robinson said, so she also told her manager that was unnecessary since she was back in the office.

Slowly, she said, her email was restored, and her manager welcomed her back to work.

Sarah Taft, the communications director at Community Medical, said the company, which also runs health centers in Dixon, Lodi, Manteca, Tracy, and Vacaville, offers a variety of benefits to meet the needs of its employees, including a generous holiday and paid-time-off schedule. Full-time employees can earn 56 hours of paid sick leave annually, she said.

“We welcome input on our benefits from employees and are committed to providing the support they need to thrive,” Taft said. “Improving health and well-being in our communities is our mission and it drives everything we do.”

Robinson said she hadn’t given her employer any reason to think she couldn’t handle her workload. The move to place her on unpaid leave, she said, made her keenly aware that workers could easily have their lives turned upside down in disputes over sick leave.

How much sick time do other states mandate?

So many people are in that sandwich generation, caring for both parents and kids as they try to earn a living, she said, and they need more job protection than the current three days afford them.

Proponents of SB 616 have told legislators that this is a pocketbook issue for many workers. Missing 3.5 days of work without pay equates to losing an entire family’s monthly grocery budget, they said, so those four additional days could mean the difference between putting food on the table and kids going hungry.

In California, seven cities already mandate that employers provide nine to 10 days of sick time, according to researchers at the California Budget ajnd Policy Center. They are San Diego, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia also mandate more sick days than California does. Six require more days for all employers or soon will:

▪ Washington: One hour for every 40 hours worked

▪ New Mexico: 64 hours

▪ Colorado and Minnesota: 48 hours, the Minnesota law will go into effect in January

▪ Vermont and New Jersey: 40 hours

Six states require employers to offer 40 hours of sick time once their workforce has met or exceeded a specific number: 10 in Oregon, 11 in Massachusetts, 15 in Maryland, 18 in Rhode Island, and 50 in Connecticut and Michigan.

The number of sick days vary in two states and D.C., depending on employee headcount:

▪ New York mandates 40 hours of sick time for businesses with fewer than 100 workers and 56 hours businesses with 100-plus employees.

▪ Arizona businesses with fewer than 15 workers must offer 24 hours of sick time, but those with 15-plus have to offer 40 hours.

▪ In Washington, D.C., companies with 24 or fewer employees must provide 3 days, those with 25-99 must offer 5 days, and those with 100-plus workers have to give 7 days.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

Will California Lawmakers Fall for Fraudulent Study Justifying Unjustified Prison Guard Union Giveaways?

California taxpayers should pay careful attention to the scheme orchestrated by the Newsom administration to further enrich his political cronies at the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Under California law, the state of California is required to conduct compensation studies in order to determine the appropriateness of general raises for public employees.

Prior to this year, the last publicly released compensation study for California’s prison guards was from 2013. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that compensation study determined “that state correctional officers were compensation 40.2% above their local government counterparts and 28.1% above their federal government counterparts.”

Ever since, the state has dragged its feet in completing and referencing these legally required studies.

In 2018, Gavin Newsom was elected governor with the support of the CCPOA.

In 2020, the CCPOA ousted one of its most prominent critics in the California Legislature, Republican Sen. John Moorlach, helping to elect compliant Democrat Dave Min.

In 2021, the CCPOA dumped millions to defend him from recall. That same year, over the objections of the LAO pointing out the lack of a compensation study, the California Legislature, including Min, uncritically voted to give the CCPOA a lucrative new contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

That contract is now up.

The LAO is raising alarm bells once again about how the state is trying to justify a lucrative new contract for the CCPOA.

For one, the state’s HR department has concocted a deliberately misleading compensation study using different methodology and comparison groups designed to make the CCPOA-represented prison guards look underpaid.

The LAO notes a number of problems with the Newsom administration’s compensation study. It deliberately compared the pay of prison guards to law enforcement employees in high cost-of-living counties where few prison guards actually work and even two counties where zero prison guards work.

The LAO also notes the study conveniently omitted overtime pay, “which is equivalent to roughly 24 percent of gross regular pay in 2022,” and “mischaracterizes the value of pension and retiree health benefits.”

For these reasons and more, the LAO is advising the Legislature not to even reference the study.

The LAO brings to light other very useful information. Like the fact that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has to turn away more than 90% of qualified applicants for the prison guard academy, which indicates that at current levels of compensation there are more than enough people willing to do the job. No general raises needed.

The LAO also notes that compared to 2013, “the share of state correctional officer positions that are vacant” has also gone down. This, too, indicates there’s no actual problem bringing prison guards on to the job.

And as for handwaving from the CCPOA about retention problems, the LAO points out “the average Unit 6 member is younger today than they were in 2013. To some extent, this may reflect recent rates of retirement.”

Despite this, the Newsom administration wants to reward his cronies at CCPOA.

This is yet another test voters should use to gauge who in the Legislature is truly representing them and who is willing to play political games over public service.

There is no reason to throw more money at CCPOA. None.

For comparison, consider this question from watchdog group Govern for California: “Do our elected state officials really believe that California should spend twice as much on the compensation and benefits of 64,937 [correctional] employees as it spends on the 450,000 students served by California State University?”

Click here to read the ful article in the Orange County Register

California Prison Guards Win Contract Deal Worth $1 Billion with Raises, Extra Benefits

Correctional officers in California’s state prisons are poised to earn more than $1 billion worth of raises, retention bonuses and other perks as part of a new deal bargained between their union and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. The high-cost proposal comes as California works to reduce its prison population and closes facilities in the name of lowering prison spending.

The proposed two-year contract for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association comes loaded with financial benefits for the nearly 26,000 guards represented by the union across California’s 33 correctional facilities, according to a summary of the agreement. The California Department of Human Resources estimated the contract will cost more than $1 billion over the course of its lifespan.

All correctional officers will earn a 3% raise retroactive to July 1 of this year and another 3% raise next July. They’ll also earn an annual $1,200 health and wellness stipend, to be paid out in November of this year and next.

Thousands of guards at three “hard-to-keep/hard-to-fill” prisons — including Salinas Valley State Prison, California State Prison, Sacramento, near Folsom and Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego — will receive one-time retention bonuses totaling $10,000. New cadets at 13 facilities will be eligible for a $5,000 relocation bonus if they are required to move 50 or more miles away from their current home address.

“The contract discussions are going smoothly, and we have reached a tentative agreement that will first go through our internal process before we comment publicly about the substance of it,” said union president Glen Stailey in a statement provided by spokesperson Nathan Ballard.

The guards’ union, known as known as CCPOA, also negotiated for additional retirement benefits to supplement each employee’s CalPERS pension. Each worker active as of Nov. 1, 2024, will receive a 401(k), to which the state will make a one-time contribution of $475. Then, starting with the January 2025 pay period, the state will make monthly retirement contributions of 1% of the guards’ monthly base salaries.

Other provisions in the agreement put additional dollars in CCPOA members’ pockets. The deal increases the premium pay for working nights and weekends from an extra $1.50 an hour to $2.50. Bilingual pay was upped from $100 to $200 a month. And workers who perform case workers for parole agents are eligible for a $100-a-month educational bonus if they hold an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News


California Unions Make Major Push with Strikes and Legislative Action

This has been a year of labor unrest in California, a state in which unions represent a relatively small faction of the state’s workforce but wield great political power.

The most obvious example is the protracted strikes of actors and writers in Southern California’s iconic entertainment industry, but Tinseltown’s picketers are just a fraction of the workers who have been demanding more in wages and benefits and are willing to walk off the job to get them.

There have been 53 labor strikes in California so far this year, involving 276,340 participants, or about 10% of total union membership in the state, according to Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker. That doesn’t include strikes that began in 2022, either.

What’s happening in California mirrors trends in other states, leading to much speculation about underlying factors, such as post-pandemic angst and inflation.

As the California Legislature enters the last days of its 2023 session, the growing unrest in workplaces is manifesting itself in high-stakes drives by union officials to gain new members and more benefits for those members.

The final agendas for legislative action are studded with union-sponsored bills that, in some cases, would make major alterations in the relationships between California employers and their workers.

One of the biggest is Assembly Bill 1228, which would make fast food franchising companies such as McDonald’s liable, along with their franchise holders, for labor law violations.

It’s the latest move by the Service Employees International Union in its drive to organize fast food workers, and responds to – or retaliates for – the fast food industry’s referendum, due to appear on the 2024 ballot, aimed at overturning previous legislation. The law in question sought to create a state commission to oversee fast food wages and working conditions.

The Hollywood strikes have spawned a late-session effort to make strikers eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

“Striking workers have earned their unemployment insurance benefits. They deserve to use them when they are unable to work,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, head of the California Labor Federation. “We can’t have workers economically insecure because they’re forced to go out on strike, it harms them and their families and has rippling effects on the entire community.”

Business groups oppose the measure, of course, arguing that since employers finance unemployment insurance benefits, they would be unfairly underwriting strikes.

Still another hard-fought measure, Senate Bill 525, would raise the minimum wage for health care workers to $21 an hour and later to $25. It’s needed, health care unions say, to allow workers in a vital industry to meet their rising living costs. Hospitals and other health care providers see it as too costly. Los Angeles County says its system would take a $200 million hit.

SB 525 is one of several union-backed measures to make the California Chamber of Commerce’s “job killer” list, meaning it’s a high-priority target for the influential business organization.

Senate Bill 616 is another chamber target and another one on the Labor Federation’s priority list. It would increase the number of mandated paid sick leave days off from three to seven.

“We knew when we passed the first paid sick days law that three days wouldn’t be enough,” Fletcher said.

The bill “imposes new costs and leave requirements on employers of all sizes … in addition to all other enacted leave mandates that small employers throughout the state are already struggling with to implement and comply,” the chamber responded.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Hotel Guests are Caught In Middle

Morning drumming, disrupted nuptials, violence — it’s no vacation for L.A. visitors during strike.

Children shrieked and splashed in the water, and a couple on an anniversary staycation floated at the edge of the hotel pool, nursing their blended beverages.

Alea Britain had checked into Hotel Maya the night before and was planning to spend the day jet-skiing with friends. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary since Britain had arrived at the waterfront Hilton property overlooking the Long Beach skyline.

“I had no idea there was a strike,” she said. “I haven’t noticed anything.”

But a few hours later that Friday, it was unmistakable — drums, megaphones, striking workers marching to demand higher wages and better working conditions.

“Our fight is to keep a roof over our heads,” shouted union leader Ada Briceño during the Aug. 11 protest, speaking for the 15,000 hotel employees striking for a new contract. “We are, right now, one paycheck away from homelessness. We are, right now, living in our cars.”

More than six weeks since the rolling strikes began, this had become the defining tableau of L.A.’s summer of labor — workers chanting in red T-shirts as guests, some appearing perplexed, others a bit sheepish, lug their suitcases past them and into the lobby.

The writers’ and actors’ strikes will take a while to reach consumers still enthralled by “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” blockbusters finished before the twin work stoppages in Hollywood. But the series of hotel walkouts, which began during the busy weekend before the Fourth of July, hit travelers right away.

This summer, tourists visiting Disneyland,the Anime Expo and the L.A. leg of Taylor Swift’s Eras tour have often been greeted outside their hotels by picketing workers represented by Unite Here Local 11. But because the strikes have happened in waves, targeting hotels in different regions on different days, some tourists, even those who see themselves as ardently pro-union, haven’t always known quite how to respond.

The union sent out a news release last week asking people to boycott three hotels where violence had flared against strikers, including Hotel Maya, where a picketer was recently punched in the head during a chaotic altercation at a wedding. But before that, the union had adopted a distinctly quieter stance, merely listing the hotels without contracts on its website and asking that people “not patronize” them.

Although some Southern California hotel customers did change their plans, others — especially those visiting from out of town — said they either didn’t know about the strike or had booked nonrefundable stays ahead of time. In online reviews for the hotels targeted for strikes, several guests vented frustrations with both hotel management and picketing employees in the contract dispute.

“If you want to have a peaceful vacation choose another location,” wrote a tourist who stayed at 1 Hotel West Hollywood in August.

“Pay your workers!” wrote another, who left a two-star review for the Holiday Inn Los Angeles LAX Airport, noting that protesters showed up around 5 a.m. “I know that workers don’t want to do this and don’t want to disturb guests, but they’re left no choice.”

Another visitor, who stayed at the hotel while in town to see Swift, criticized what she called “abrupt behavior” from the strikers and complimented the hotel for blaring Swift’s music to drown out their chants.

“This is awesome customer service,” she wrote. (The hotel responded: “We truly appreciate your wonderful comments!”)

::

Emma Eblen was on her couch recovering from COVID-19 and scrolling through email when she spotted a subject line that said “Congrats!”

When she was finally convinced it wasn’t a scam, the 30-year-old began to shake with excitement and dialed her friend with the news: She’d won a pair of tickets to see Swift in L.A. through a giveaway hosted by Capital One. They immediately searched for hotels and chose the Los Angeles Airport Marriott because a chartered bus could pick them up there and take them to the stadium.

It was a bit odd that the hotel reservation was nonrefundable, she recalled thinking at the time, but for two nights at around $800, the friends decided it was their best bet. It wasn’t until a week before the trip, while searching a Facebook group for concertgoers, that the Olympia, Wash., resident learned of the strike.

“Oh, my God,” Eblen thought, her mind immediately jumping to her parents, both members of a theater union. “Crossing a picket is one of the worse things I could ever think of.”

But there were almost no options left on Airbnb, and she knew she couldn’t afford to eat the cost of the nonrefundable reservation. Winning the tickets had felt like a dream — she couldn’t stop thinking about her 15-year-old self crying along to “Teardrops on My Guitar” on the radio years earlier — but now she felt sick with guilt at even the thought of crossing a picket line.

In the end, it never came to that; although other hotels in the Marriott chain were picketed, hers was not. Still, she said, she’d been awakened by 6 a.m. chants from picketers at a hotel across the street.

As part of its strategy, the union has targeted events expected to draw thousands to the region, including the annual meeting of the American Political Science Assn., and Swift herself.

In a plea to the pop icon, whose out-of-town fans boost hotel prices in the cities she visits, the union borrowed the name of one of her albums. “Speak Now!” their letter reads, “stand with hotel workers and postpone your concerts.”

A few days after releasing the public letter to Swift, whose six sold-out concerts went on as planned, the union again drew headlines, filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board highlighting what it called a pattern of violent incidents and property destruction at picket lines. It specifically listed the three hotels it has now asked people to boycott — Hotel Maya, Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica and Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point.

In late July at the Dana Point hotel, Maria Hernandez, who works as an assistant server at the hotel’s Knife Modern Steak restaurant, said she spotted celebrity chef John Tesar, who runs the restaurant, walking toward the picket line. She began recording on her cellphone as he walked toward her and flipped her off.

“Take your union, and shove it up your,” he says, punctuating his delivery with an expletive and then hurling an insult at her in Spanish. “You’re a bad person. You’re a lazy pendeja.”

After that, Hernandez said, he snatched a drumstick out of her hands. She told him she knew who he was and that what he was doing wasn’t right, she said, and he then told her that he would recognize her when she came back to work.

“I was afraid,” she said, “that I would get into trouble or get fired.”

In an interview, Tesar said that while staying at the hotel during a vacation with his three children — 12, 5 and 2 — protesters had jeered at, filmed and made hand gestures toward him and his children, calling him a “terrible person.” In the days since then, he said, he’s received several death threats and been called a racist.

The former “Top Chef” contestant acknowledged that, after a protester flipped him off on the last morning of his stay, he used a metal spoon to break the picketer’s drum.

“I was protecting my children,” he said. “I’m anything but a racist. … I’m a New Yorker, I’m sorry, I speak in profanities. I’m a chef. We curse in the kitchen. I apologize if it offended anybody.”

After Maisha Hudson and Shawn Parker got engaged, the bride-to-be reached out to a wedding planner she knew from her college sorority, who sent over a list of potential venues.

Intent on a waterfront view, the Inglewood couple picked Hotel Maya, and in January, six months before the strike began, the couple signed a contract and put down a deposit to reserve their August date, according to interviews with Maisha Hudson-Parker, as she’s now known, and her wedding planner, Deborah Croom.

It wasn’t until Aug. 1, four days before her ceremony, the bride said, that she learned from the hotel that there might be strikers there on the day of her wedding. With friends and relatives flying in from across the country, shifting to a different location on short notice felt impossible — friends had scrambled to move a wedding in 72 hours last year, she said, and ended up paying $70,000.

Hotel managers apologized for the inconvenience, Hudson-Parker said, but assured her she wouldn’t be able to hear anything because the picketers often gathered in the front of the hotel, not at the back of the property near the water, where the ceremony would take place.

Not long after sunrise on her wedding day, she woke to the sound of bullhorns, and the hotel offered to move the ceremony into an indoor ballroom. But it would have been a tight squeeze for her 226 guests, the bride said, and she’d picked the venue specifically for the outdoor view of the water.

Instead, the hotel put up mobile metal fencing to block the outdoor ceremony area from a publicly accessible pathway along the shoreline. Before the ceremony, the bride said, a few of her guests asked the striking workers if they’d mind pausing their picket for 30 minutes so the couple could exchange vows in quiet. They refused, she said, leaving her and many of her guests — among them union members and supporters — in an unenviable position.

The bride said she’d donated water bottles during the Los Angeles teachers’ strike and had friends in the writers’ strike. Croom said she spent much of the day thinking of her parents, who were union members — her mother a teacher, her father working in the shipyards — and heard their voices in her head: “You should never cross the picket line.” But by the time they learned the venue was one of the locations to be picketed, both women said, payments had already been finalized and guests were preparing to fly out.

On the afternoon of the ceremony, as guests mingled in the outdoor plaza decorated with bouquets of burnt orange and crimson flowers, smooth music crooning from the speakers competed with the sound of drums and picketers chanting, “Hotel Maya, escucha, estamos en la lucha.” (Hotel Maya, listen, we are in the fight.)

Frustrated, wedding guests began to record videos of the picketers gathered on the other side of the fencing. “They’re trying to mess up her wedding,” one guest says in a recording shared with The Times.

Another clip shows a moment of commotion, as the mobile fencing gets hoisted into the air and people rush toward it from both sides. On the other side of the fence, a man in a black shirt — described by the union in a tweet as a hotel guest — runs up to a picketer and pummels him on the side of the head.

Carlos Cheverri Canalés, the worker who was punched, said in an interview that he thinks he lost consciousness briefly because the next thing he remembered was waking up to shouts. Recently hired as a line cook in the hotel’s lounge, he said, he didn’t yet have health insurance and was worried about medical bills.

“I was punched in the head,” he said, “for trying to have a voice.”

Another worker on the picket line that day, David Ventura, said he saw security guards, at the direction of a nearby manager, abruptly lift the chain link fencing, ramming it toward the workers. Worried that people might get knocked over, the bellman said, he rushed forward to help his co-workers.

“I was trying to take care of my people,” he said. “It would behoove the owners to do right by us at the bargaining table.”

In a statement, the Long Beach Police Department — whose officers arrived at the scene and eventually escorted the bride, in her flowing, ivory-colored gown, into the ceremony area — said four demonstrators were injured by a man who also destroyed a speaker. Police said the suspect, whom the bride said she didn’t know, fled before police arrived.

At one point, the bride said, she had tears in her eyes and asked a protester to please respect her wedding. “He yelled at me,” Hudson-Parker said, “and told me I should have known this was coming.”

The ceremony started an hour and a half late, which squeezed the timeline for photos and cost her the time to dance with some of her elderly guests who left once it got dark.

The hotel has apologized, Hudson-Parker said, acknowledging it wasn’t properly prepared. The hotel’s director of human resources did not respond to requests for comment, and two other executives declined to comment. In an email about the incident to elected officials, Heather Rozman, president of the Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles, wrote that “guests had to be protected by both hotel security and Long Beach Police because of threats leading up to the wedding ceremony.”

Asked about the incident, a union spokesperson contended that workers were fully within their rights to protest by the wedding and that guests frustrated or inconvenienced by the strike should focus their blame on management.

“It’s the hotel’s responsibility,” spokesperson Maria Hernandez said.

During the protest at the hotel almost a week later, picketers unfurled a bold red banner reading “Boycott.”

As the workers marched in circles, volunteers from the National Lawyers Guild’s legal observers program, called as a precaution by the union after the wedding altercation, meandered through the crowd with notebooks. Off to the side, several hotel managers and executives watched.

Jesus Grimaldo, 79, who has worked at Hotel Maya for nearly four decades, addressed the crowd in Spanish. His health is failing — he’s a cancer survivor twice over and recently had a heart attack — but he can’t afford to retire, he said, because his $20-an-hour wage is too low. He supports his wife, as well as his daughter and grandchild, who live with them.

“What we are asking for,” he said, “is fair and just.”

A few guests observed from the lobby.

One of them, Christopher Ricci, who was in town for a convention put on by Kawai Pianos, owns a small piano store in Rhode Island. The brief boost in profits sparked by people’s COVID-19 lockdown-era hobbies had long ago disappeared, he said, and business was again on the decline.

“I feel empathy for them,” he said of the striking workers. “The way things are with inflation, you’ve got to try to pay people what they deserve.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Feud Between Native American Casinos and California Card Rooms Moves to Legislature

When California voters were deciding the fate of two competing sports gambling ballot measures last year – and defeating both after seemingly jillion-dollar campaigns – they were unwittingly passing judgment on three ancillary gambling issues.

Proposition 26, the measure sponsored by American Indian tribes that would given them control of sports wagering, contained three other provisions that drew little media attention. One would allow a few horseracing tracks to take bets on sporting events, a second would have expanded gambling in tribal casinos into roulette and dice games, and a third could have driven the state’s poker parlors out of business.

The third was an effort by the tribes to settle a long-simmering political and legal dispute with the card rooms over which kinds of games the latter could feature. The casino-owning tribes contend that their rivals, with such games as blackjack, have expanded into tribal territory under the state’s very complicated definitions separating legal gambling from illegal forms.

If approved, Prop. 26 would have given the state attorney general new powers to crack down on violations of gambling laws, including the power to close facilities that the AG deemed to be violators, and if the AG refused to act, a private party – such as an tribal casino – could file a civil action itself. Card room operators saw the passage as a death sentence and were relieved when the proposition failed.

However, it was not the end of the long-running gambling turf war, and hostilities are being resumed in the state Legislature in the form of a bill that would allow tribes to do what voters didn’t approve last year: file civil actions against the rival card rooms.

Senate Bill 549 began as a measure dealing with education when it passed the Senate, but in June its author, Sen. Josh Newman, a Democrat from Fullerton, stripped out its language and substituted verbiage lifted almost word for word from Prop. 26, giving tribes a three-month window next year to take legal action against their rivals.

Both sides are gearing up for war when the Legislature reconvenes this week. The tribes have a bottomless pit of political money and have long established themselves as a major interest group in the Capitol. But, the family that owns a large card room in Hawaiian Gardens, a tiny city – just one square mile – in Los Angeles County, has committed $5-plus million just this year to lobbying against SB 549.

Hawaiian Gardens is located just a few blocks from the boundary of Newman’s district and taxes on the Gardens Casino, one of the state’s largest card rooms, provides more than two-thirds of the otherwise impoverished city’s revenue.

This isn’t the first time the casino has been embroiled in political battle.

The casino’s late founder, Dr. Irving Moskowitz, was a major financier for settlements in territory claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. As I wrote in a Sacramento Bee column 23 years ago, Moskowitz’s actions in Israel were supported by the nation’s hardliners but drew criticism from moderates and the conflict found its way into the Legislature over allegations that the city of Hawaiian Gardens had improperly used redevelopment funds to underwrite construction of the casino.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Some of California’s Best-Paid Public Employees Say They’re Ready to Strike. Here’s Why

Some of California’s highest-paid public employees are in an intensifying labor battle with the Newsom administration over staffing shortages at state prisons and hospitals that workers say endanger patients and staff.

The union representing doctors and psychiatrists working in California correctional facilities said that 91% of voting members authorized a strike Monday. Non-competitive salaries, strenuous working conditions and an overreliance on higher-paid contracted doctors, make it difficult to hire staff physicians, said Dr. Stuart Bussey, president of the umbrella Union of American Physicians and Dentists.

“We’d like to settle this thing without (striking), but our members are prepared to act,” Bussey said.

A strike authorization does not mean workers will not show up to work, although it could lead to a strike. Negotiations began in March, and the union’s contract expired July 1. The state and its physicians remain “very far apart,” Bussey said.

The California Department of Human Resources told CalMatters it “does not comment on ongoing negotiations.”

The biggest sticking point is salaries. Though doctors and psychiatrists pull down between $285,000 and $343,000 annually, according to California Correctional Health Care Services, temporary contracted workers make twice as much, said Dr. Nader Wassef, psychiatrist and chief of staff at Napa State Hospital. 

“I am not going to claim poverty. What I’m trying to say is if we plan on getting trained, qualified psychiatrists to treat these patients, we are not going to get any because we are not competitive,” Wassef said. 

The vacancy rate among on-site psychiatrists exceeded 50% in June, according to court documents filed by the state in an ongoing lawsuit over prison conditions and prisoner safety. Among all psychiatrists, including telehealth providers, the vacancy rate was 35%.

More than 20% of primary care doctor positions are vacant, California Correctional Health Care Services told CalMatters in an unsigned statement Tuesday. The agency did not respond to questions about contractor pay.  

Labor strife during budget crunch

The strike authorization comes as the Newsom administration faces a battery of difficult contract negotiations, all in the midst of a $31 billion budget deficit

Increasingly, state workers say salaries don’t cover basic needs with inflation and the cost of housing cutting deeply into paychecks. In July, contracts expired for the state’s two largest unions — SEIU Local 1000 and the California Correctional Peace Officers Association. They represent more than 125,000 workers, and SEIU is demanding double-digit raises. The union representing state scientists is also demanding salary increases commensurate with privately employed peers.

The state is offering the prison doctors’ union a 2% raise for each of the next three years, which members say will not be enough to help with recruiting and retaining doctors. The union wants at least a 15% raise in the first year of the new contract. 

The prison doctor’s union is small, representing roughly 1,300 employees, but it is the “linchpin of California’s correctional medical system,” Bussey said. Doctors are responsible for assessing patients daily, writing prescriptions, overseeing drug treatment, providing behavioral and mental health interventions and giving court testimony.

“I am not going to claim poverty. What I’m trying to say is if we plan on getting trained, qualified psychiatrists to treat these patients, we are not going to get any because we are not competitive.”DR. NADER WASSEF, PSYCHIATRIST AND CHIEF OF STAFF AT NAPA STATE HOSPITAL

Wassef, who has worked at Napa State Hospital for 13 years, said working in a correctional medical facility is more challenging than working in a typical hospital. 

“Our patients are really very sick. I have patients that have been in the hospital 20 or 30 years,” Wassef said. “They become violent, some are in restraints… The patient population puts higher demand than what is in the community hospital.”

Wassef said his hospital has not been fully staffed since 2014. It has a 45% vacancy with 12 open positions.

Contract prison doctors paid more

Ten of those positions at Napa are filled by temporary contractors who are paid twice the hourly rate of staff doctors. 

Bussey said the comparatively low take-home pay shows the state knows what a competitive salary looks like and has the money to foot the bill. The state spends approximately $100 million per year on contracted physicians, he said. Contractors do not get the benefits and pensions state workers do, but the pay differential makes it easy for staff members to quit and return as higher-paid contractors, Wassef said.  

He said five psychiatrists recently quit staff jobs at Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk to work as contracting physicians instead. 

The physician shortage in prisons also makes it difficult for the state to meet court-imposed staffing mandates that have been in place in state prisons for more than two decades.

In March, a U.S District Court judge for California’s Eastern District issued the state a $1,000 per day fine for failing to implement appropriate suicide prevention measures in state prisons over the past eight years, including reducing the psychiatrist and case manager vacancy rate to 10% or below. That 10% benchmark was originally set by a judge in 2002. More than one-third of state prisoners have serious mental health disorders, according to court documents.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

San Bernardino to Award Up to $5,000 in ‘Hero’ Payments to City Employees

Full-time employees in cities across the Inland Empire received similar payments

San Bernardino will award premium, or hero, pay to full- and part-time city employees for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those still at City Hall who started working there between March 13, 2020, and May 5, 2023, will receive the bonus.

Full-time employees will get $5,000 and part-time workers will get $2,500 under a plan approved by the City Council Wednesday, July 19.

About $5.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding will be used to reward approximately 800 full- and part-time city employees and another 300 or so with the Water Department for their service these past three years.

“The pandemic was extremely difficult for all of us, but not all of us were able to stop when the world did,” Councilmember Ben Reynoso, who proposed the pay structure, wrote in a text message Friday, July 21. “Our city staff kept our local world fully operational for the community and for that, a one-time hero payment is the least we can do.”

San Bernardino joins several other Inland cities in rewarding employees for clocking into work during the pandemic.

Colton, Fontana, Moreno Valley, Murrieta, Ontario, Pomona, Rialto and Riverside all awarded full-time workers hero pay. Some of those cities also cut part-time workers a check.

While San Bernardino leaders agreed some sort of hero payment was in order, they debated how much should be awarded.

Councilmember Theodore Sanchez proposed awarding $3,500 to all employees, full- and part-time, arguing that the difference in hours worked between the two is minimal.

“Nobody was at risk of getting part-time COVID,” he said. “Part-time employees still had to put on their uniform and go to work. I have not met a single part-time employee in the city who would not have loved to be a full-time employee.

“They wanted to go out and be in the community.”

Click here to read the full article in the Sun

Thousands of SoCal Hotel Workers Go On Strike

The union representing thousands of workers employed at major hotels across Los Angeles and Orange counties said Sunday its members are now on strike. 

“This morning, thousands of cooks, room attendants, dishwashers, servers, bellmen, and front desk agents at multiple properties walked out on the largest multi-hotel strike in the local’s history,” a statement from UNITE HERE Local 11, the labor union representing more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona, said. 

“For 14 years I saw how my mother worked as a housekeeper and fought hard to raise me. I am striking because it is my turn to fight for a better future for me and my son,” said Jennifer Flores, front desk supervisor at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown.

According to the union, hotel workers in June voted 96% in favor of authorizing a strike. 

The union is seeking to create a hospitality workforce housing fund, in addition to better wages, healthcare benefits, pension and safer workloads. 

Click here to read the full article in FoxNews11

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