Addressing Long Beach Labor Issues: Some Action Items

The Oral History Association’s Labor Working Group came into existence earlier this year at the request of OHA President Annie Valk to address the labor dispute at the Renaissance Long Beach, the OHA conference hotel for our 2016 annual meeting. The Association risks severe financial penalty should it break the hotel contract or fail to fill a block of hotel rooms or meet the minimum food and beverage expenditure. Therefore, our charge is to work creatively to help resolve the labor dispute in Long Beach in such a way that enhances the rights of workers to be represented by the union of their choice and to address OHA member concerns about labor and human rights in Long Beach.

Many OHA people are union members and we take this issue very seriously. (I am first vice-president of my union, the United Faculty of Florida, NEA-AFT/AFL-CIO at the University of Florida.) Many of us grew up in union households, and our working group has been contacted by prospective conference goers who are understandably upset at this situation.

If you are reading about the Long Beach situation for the first time I highly encourage you to read Council’s February 21, 2016 letter to OHA members regarding the labor dispute. This letter as well as updates on the labor struggle may be viewed at OHA’s Hotel Updates page.

Action Items
Members of our working group have engaged in discussions with organizers at UNITE HERE, hotel management, and OHA members about ways to resolve this dispute. There are periodic pickets being organized by the union and workers in Long Beach. The union is requesting a card-check election procedure with a promise by the hotel that it will remain neutral and ratify a first contract in a timely manner should the majority of workers sign cards asking for union representation. This is a process of union elections accepted by the National Labor Relations Board. To date, the hotel management has refused to recognize the validity of this form of election. UNITE HERE has called for a boycott until hotel management agrees to their request.

Our working group urges OHA members to take the following steps to help resolve this dispute as quickly as possible:

1) Call the Renaissance directly via phone. Identify yourself as a concerned OHA member. If you are a member of a labor organization, please urge your organization or group to call the Renaissance directly to urge them to resolve this dispute now. Some members have spoken directly to Pam Ryan, manager at the Renaissance at 949-375-2515. You may also contact the hotel at 1-562-437-5900. Emphasize your feelings on the dispute, and remind the hotel that this issue is being followed closely across the country. It is standard practice for some managers to not acknowledge ongoing labor disputes at their firms; however, they all keep notes on customer contacts on the issues.
2) Write a letter to the hotel expressing your thoughts on the situation. Again, identify yourself as a concerned OHA member. The address of the hotel is: Renaissance Long Beach Hotel,111 E. Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90802.
3) For those who are members of unions or labor associations, please encourage your organizations to call and or write letters directly to the hotel on letterhead expressing concern about the labor dispute and asking for a speedy resolution, a card check union certification process with a promise by the hotel that it will remain neutral and ratify a first contract should the majority of workers sign cards asking for union representation.

Please let the OHA Labor Working Group what kind of response you receive from the hotel so that we can keep each other better informed about this important situation. You may leave messages for me at:

Please Join Us! We are always looking for new members to join our Labor Working Group. If you are interested in sharing your thoughts, and would like to help OHA in our endeavor to help resolve the labor dispute in Long Beach please contact me directly at: Our group generally meets bi-weekly by phone or email. We promise to keep meetings to a minimum because at this point, we are focused on promoting the aforementioned action items.

In Solidarity,
Paul Ortiz
Chair, OHA Labor Working Group

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