In a recent public letter, Mayor Ted Winterer reflects on the progress Santa Monica has made over the last six months. Covering everything from combating homelessness to regulating scooters, the Mayor leaves out one other notable accomplishment: The rejection of a harmful “labor peace” proposal.

After a public outcry, the City Council abandoned the idea of a so-called “Labor Peace Agreement” (LPA) on city-owned property, which would have eased the organizing process for Unite Here Local 11. LPAs require employers to make concessions to union officials, such as requiring business owners to hand over employees’ personal contact information to labor organizers. An even more egregious requirement involves a publicly staged “card check” vote instead of a secret ballot union election, which leaves employees vulnerable to union intimidation. 

City leases already stipulate that business owners are barred from impeding workers’ efforts to organize, and Santa Monica had no historical record of the kinds of work disruptions an LPA is meant to prevent. So why was “labor peace” even necessary? Leave it to Local 11—California’s most aggressive hotel union—to push this solution in search of a problem.

The union’s motive is clear. When organizing becomes easier, Local 11 gains access to more dues revenue, which funds union officials’ salaries and bankrolls future union campaigns. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle: By using LPAs to unionize more hotels and restaurants, Local 11 is better positioned to lobby City Council for more union handouts down the road.

The union’s obsession with dues collection is especially evident in the hotel industry. From 2006 to 2016, the number of hotels in Los Angeles County increased by roughly 13 percent, and hotel industry employment grew by more than 20 percent. At the same time, Local 11’s membership essentially doubled, increasing from 11,936 to roughly 22,000 members. The Center for Union Facts found that in a single decade, Local 11’s total assets skyrocketed from about $6.7 million to almost $13 million. Last year, union membership surpassed 26,000 employees, while total assets climbed to $15 million.

In rejecting its LPA proposal, City Council finally recognized the union’s agenda, and that it isn’t a top priority for the rest of Santa Monica. As Mayor Ted Winterer put it, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the community’s interest and labor’s interest have diverged from one another.” Councilmember Sue Himmelrich echoed his sentiment: “I’m uncomfortable with the whole setting we’re in because we can’t just pretend we’re going to say you have to have a Labor Peace Agreement and not know what the consequences are.”

If anything, they’re late to the party. Santa Monicans have long been uncomfortable with Local 11—and its disruptive tactics.

According to a recent survey by the Center for Union Facts, more than 62 percent of likely Santa Monica voters oppose Local 11’s push for skyline-altering hotels, while almost 58 percent of Santa Monicans believe the union should have “less influence” with the City Council. Moreover, nearly three-quarters of Santa Monicans “don’t support” Local 11’s reliance on early-morning protests and noisy bullhorn use to pressure employers into unionization.

For a labor union fancying itself as a “grassroots” organization, Local 11’s unpopularity where it’s most active is nothing short of startling.

Elected officials finally got the memo. Let’s hope they keep the door closed the next time Local 11 comes knocking.