The Red High Heel Party started as a house party fundraiser in 2010 and has now grown into one of the most popular HIV/AIDS fundraising events in Long Beach–and UNITE HERE Local 11, a labor union associated with the Long Beach Hilton, is calling on its workers to boycott the event.

As the event’s fourth coming arrives, Tom Crowe, the founder and creator of the Red High Heel Party, had to move the event to a space which could accommodate the hundreds who plan on attending–and that meant ballroom-style space.

“I was no longer able to do it at my home,” Crowe said. “The Hilton provided us an offer and space that made it capable for us to continue and simultaneously expand.”

According to a letter sent out to union members–ranging from banquet servers to front desk attendants–the union is in the midst of a battle with its employer over alleged retaliation against workers for engaging in “protected activity.”

“Workers of the Hilton Long Beach are asking members of the community to stand with them as they fight for respect, dignity, and safety by honoring the worker-called boycott at the hotel,” said union representative Erinn Carter in her letter, emphasizing that an “injury to one is an injury to all.”

However, Red Heel Organizers and local activists see the boycott as insulting and demeaning, with a lack of understanding at how a privately-organized fundraiser for the Long Beach AIDS Foundation has anything to do with a labor dispute.

“While we may empathize with the concerns of a group’s grievance against a free-enterprise business,” said Garry Bowie, executive director of the Long Beach AIDS Foundation, in a letter of outspoken dissent. “It is unfortunate that some people choose to a move a political agenda in an opportunistic fashion while health organizations who do not engage in politics, struggle to make a healthy impact on their communities with those who need help the most.” 

The Long Beach Hilton, in a correspondence Crowe, stated that a majority of the employees are not behind Local 11. 

“UNITE HERE Local 11 is obviously trying to increase its presence here in Long Beach [after several protests since January of 2009],” said Richard Hoyt, Director of Catering at the Long Beach Hilton. “While we have a small but vocal pro-union group of employees which is backed by a very well-funded UNITE HERE marketing campaign, we also have a large contingency of employees who are not interested in joining the union given its controversial tactics… [We] hope that UNITE HERE honors our employees’ rights, allows them to vote, and stops threatening their economic well-being by misleading our clients.”

While it remains unclear as to how Local 11 will affect the fundraising efforts, Bowie hopes for a neutrality amongst the politics as he starts an online petition against the labor union’s efforts.

“We hold steadfast to the values that we believe in a healthy community through mental, social, emotional and physical well-being,” Bowie said. “We hope those engaged in such behavior understand that LBAF remains neutral on politics so that we may do the hard work that needs to be done.”

Erinn Carter of UNITE HERE Local 11 did not return any requests for comment; read her boycott letter below.

To read and sign the petition against the union, click here.

UNITE HERE Local 11: Red High Heel Party Boycott Letter

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