The front side of a mailer attacking Councilman Roberto Uranga and other council members. Photo by Stephanie Rivera.

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Thousands of residents received mailers this past week accusing four representatives on the City Council of turning their backs on Long Beach’s hotel workers.

The mailer, paid for by a committee of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said the councilmembers twice failed to vote on an ordinance geared toward protecting hotel workers.

Pete Hillan, spokesman for the Long Beach Hospitality Alliance, said it’s one thing to have political discussions—and another thing for a councilmember to not do their duty.

“You still have to go out and vote,” Hillan said.

The mailers targeted voters in Alamitos Beach, Downtown, Bixby Knolls, West Long Beach and North Long Beach. Those areas are represented by councilmen Roberto Uranga and Rex Richardson, and councilwomen Lena Gonzalez and Jeannine Pearce, who all walked out, twice, when votes came up to pass a council alternative to Measure WW, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot.

4 councilmembers walk out—again—after vote on panic buttons for hotel workers

The city’s panic button ordinance, which passed on a 5-0 vote, has been a source of contention for the nine-member council, with some members believing that its timing is a political ploy to confuse voters and prevent the passage of Measure WW.

Measure WW is similar to the city ordinance. It would require panic buttons in hotels with 50 rooms or more—but it also includes labor and workload provisions, such as limits on how much square footage a housekeeper can clean in one day. The measure has exemptions for unionized hotels.

The city ordinance requires panic buttons for all hotels and motels in the city and does not include the labor provisions and union exemptions.

The mailer, quoting September articles in the Post and Long Beach Business Journal, claims that the four councilmembers refused to vote on the ordinance because they want constituents to vote for Measure WW, “which helps their special interest friends but leaves workers in nearly half of the city’s hotels unprotected.”

Pearce said the mailer is an insult to voters.

“This policy and hit piece has nothing to do with protecting Long Beach workers and has everything to do with protecting their own political base, the billion dollar international hospitality industry,” Pearce said.

Uranga said to vote on the ordinance “would have been contrary to our beliefs and values and, frankly, unethical.”

“The issue is not just about panic buttons; it is about protecting our hotel workers and having a first class workforce for a first class city,” Uranga said.

Gonzalez called the mailing of “misleading material” to the four most progressive members of the council a disingenuous act by the chamber’s PAC.

“Let’s be very clear, I was elected to represent working people not hotels or their profit margins,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she will continue to walk out on an item if she thinks it does more harm for working people.

Richardson said he was disappointed with the chamber, calling the mailers an attempt to confuse voters into believing the ordinance is a substitute for Measure WW. He said the measure is about more than just panic buttons, allowing low-wage workers to be in a position to negotiate working conditions.

“This is about whether we want to continue the bottom line of CEOs or if workers are included in the prosperity of city,” Richardson said.

Hillan says the ordinance passed by the council does not have the same economic impact on city as Measure WW; an economic impact report released by the city earlier this month said Measure WW could cost Long Beach millions of dollars in lost revenue.

“Our position from the Alliance and chamber and a number of institutions in Long Beach is we just need good governance here,” Hillan said.

Richardson said similar concerns were raised with the 2013 passage of Measure N, which established minimum wages ($14.64 effective July 1, 2018) and sick leave for hotel workers. Since then, six new hotels have been built, he added.

Richardson said the service sector is growing, but so is the economic divide and workers, especially women of color, should be treated with more dignity by putting standards in place.

“Ultimately our regional economy is going to reward us with it,” Richardson said.

Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.