Trading Votes For Money • Long Beach Post

In early August, I began a series of posts on the past, present and future of labor unions highlighting their growing influence in government at the local, state and federal levels.


As I stated then, I have made a career out of being on the “other side” of union politics and have decided it is time to understand why they have so much influence. I received numerous emails and continue to welcome our reader’s point of view in my series of posts on this topic.


This post is on the February 2008 City of Long Beach ballot initiative to overturn the recent City Council ordinance to require a labor peace agreement for all hotels on city property. 


I oppose government forcing a mandate upon employees to unionize. As Mike Murchison, the consultant for the Hospitality Alliance (a coalition opposing the Council’s recent action), states at the end of this post: under the National Labor Relations Act, non-union employees currently have the right to vote and select a union at any time anyway.


All labor-management relations in private industry are based on the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which was later amended by the Taft Hartley Act. The NLRA makes it unlawful for an employer to interfere with employees’ ability to make a free and uncoerced choice of representation. This is a fundamental right under the NLRA and it is the responsibility of the NLRB to ensure this right of employees. It is also unlawful under the NLRA for an employer to give assistance to a particular union over another union who may be seeking representation.


For a government entity such as the Long Beach City Council to force a private employer to recognize a union is not only a clear violation of basic employee and employer rights under the NLRA but is unlawful and preposterous!


Furthermore, the ordinance is not about protecting employees or protecting the City of Long Beach as some Councilmembers claim. It’s about Councilmembers trading their votes for continued financial support from unions. Here’s how it works: The ordinance coerces employees to join a union…employees pay part of their wages to the union’s political effort…part of which are then passed on by the union to most of our City Councilmembers come election time. Click here to see how much Councilmembers receive.


So now it’s up to the voters to decide.


The following is by Mike Murchison, consultant for the Hospitality Alliance:


In October of 2005, Vice-Mayor Bonnie Lowenthal introduced a recommendation that an ordinance be drafted that would require the city to receive documentation from a hotelier that can include, but not be limited to, a labor peace agreement as a condition of approval for any new lease, lease amendment or lease assignment for all hotels located on city owned property.  This was placed on the city council’s agenda without any consultation from anyone in the business or hospitality community.  It was also a direct copy of a Los Angeles ordinance.  At no time was anyone in the hospitality community asked to be a part of the process nor was time given to study this recommendation.  As was brought up at subsequent city council meetings by a council member, “no one even knows what a Labor Peace Agreement is.”


As a direct result of opposition by city business leaders, a Hospitality Alliance was founded.  Efforts by the Alliance have resulted in the measure being delayed, sent to “committee”, revised, restated and vetoed by the Mayor before finally being adopted in a different form known as “Version D” in January of this year.  The ordinance was then stayed as the Alliance mounted a campaign in which 36,000 signatures were gathered in opposition to the ordinance.  The future of the ordinance now lies in the hands of the voters.


Unfortunately this type of card check neutrality agreement also known as a labor peace agreement could mean lower wages and fewer benefits for employees presently working at non-union hotels.  As is their right under the National Labor Relations Act, non-union employees have the right to vote and select a union at any time. Why should the city take away the employee’s right to a secret ballot election?  Employees at non-union Long Beach hotels have not voted to do so because they are offered competitive, if not higher, wages and benefits than at union hotels (only the Coast and the Queen Mary are union).  Non-union employees also have the ability to work in other departments throughout the hotel to supplement their income from their primary position.  In addition, surveys from several non-union Long Beach hotels indicate between 90 to 98 percent of hotel employees are happy working for their current employer.


A labor peace agreement could also have the unintended effect of eliminating successful employee assistance programs at non-union Long Beach hotels.  Unlike union properties, non-union Long Beach hotels are able to offer employment to students and job tax credit individuals.  Many non-union Long Beach hotels also offer programs to promote hourly employees to management, continuing education reimbursement, cross training programs, health fairs, and personal assistance hot lines.  As many union hotels do not have the ability to offer similar programs, non-union Long Beach hotel employees will most likely lose these benefits if they are coerced into representation by a union.  In effect, labor peace agreements take away a non-union employee’s right to self-determination in order to appease unions who threaten strikes.          


The hotel industry is just now beginning to recover from the devastating effects of 9/11.  After a 15-year absence of new hotel development in Long Beach, the Hospitality Alliance is excited to see several new hotel developments and expansion projects in the planning process at the City.  A labor peace agreement and the constraints it imposes on hoteliers could dramatically affect these plans.  In addition, this dramatic change to existing lease terms can impact the ability of these hotels to market their assets, remain competitive, and grow revenues through expansions and property improvements.


In our view, a labor peace agreement not only isn’t needed within the City of Long Beach, it isn’t wanted by the very employees it purports to protect.  The hospitality businesses in Long Beach already have labor peace!


You should ask yourself three basic questions:


1. Is it lawful for the City of Long Beach to take away the right to strike from employees working in Long Beach?


2. Is it lawful for the City of Long Beach to deprive employees of a secret ballot election in the selection of a bargaining representative?


3. Is it lawful for the City of Long Beach to violate an existing contract with private business?

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