A militant, politically left-wing union that for years has denounced tax subsidies for luxury hotel development in Anaheim is embracing just such subsidy program in Santa Ana due to the city council’s inclusion of mandatory “labor peace agreements” for participating hotels.
For the last four years, leaders of the militant hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11 have attacked members of the Anaheim City Council for their support for subsidizing four-diamond hotel development using a portion of the transient occupancy tax (TOT) generated by those hotels. Lambasting them as corporate “giveaways” to “rich developers” has been a staple of their political campaigns and an organizing tool for their successful drive to push Anaheim into adopting by-district elections. Over and over, UNITE-HERE Local 11 leader Ada Briceno and OCCORD activists blasted the GardenWalk project agreement as a “giveaway.”
“While UNITE-HERE Local 11 supports the creation of jobs, it should not be done at the expense of taxpayers,” UNITE-HERE official Martin Lopez told the Anaheim City Council during a 2009 vote on an early version of the subsidy for the GardenWalk Hotels project. Lopez is now running against Anaheim Councilwoman Lucille Kring in newly-created District 4.
After the Anaheim City Council approved a revised economic assistance agreement with the GardenWalk developers in May 2013, the union’s satellite advocacy group OCCORD (Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development) filed a lawsuit to invalidate the agreement – litigation that has help up the project ever since.
Bad in Anaheim, Good in Santa Ana
Next door in Santa Ana, however, UNITE-HERE believes “strongly” in the city using TOT taxes to subsidize four-diamond hotel development. The difference? As a condition of participation in the hotel incentive program, developers must submit to a “labor peace agreement” they must execute “with any labor union that represents or seeks to represent employees of the Hotel, but during construction and operation of the Hotel.” In return for being given the franchise to represent a participating hotels employees, UNITE-HERE Local 11 promises not to disrupt the hotel’s operation.
Furthermore, Santa Ana requires participating hotel developers to use only “responsible contractors,” i.e. contractors who use union labor and pay prevailing wage.
By contrast, Anaheim hotel incentive policy so fiercely opposed by UNITE-HERE Local 11 is a clean policy: a straightforward TOT rebate without the unionization and wage mandates.
This explains why OCCORD’s incoming Executive Director Shakeel Syed spoke in support of Santa Ana’s luxury hotel subsidy program even as OCCORD litigates against Anaheim’s hotel incentive agreement with the GardenWalk project.
UNITE-HERE Local 11 Secretary-Treasurer Ada Briceno has frequently inveighed against Anaheim’s clean hotel incentive policy as taxpayer “giveaways” – and as interim executive director of OCCORD for more than a year, she has overseen the progressive advocacy group’s litigation against the GardenWalk project.
However, at Tuesday’s Santa Ana council meeting, Briceno was not only effusive in her praise for the city’s forced unionization model; she also vowed to export it to other cities:
“Santa Ana has provided a model for other cities and we will make sure we take it to other cities.”
Posturing and rhetoric notwithstanding, Tuesday’s Santa Ana City Council vote made clear UNITE-HERE’s and OCCORD’s only objection to subsidizing luxury hotel development is when cities refuse to use them to force hotel workers to join unions.