Union members, Occupy L.A. protesters descend on revamped Hotel Bel-Air
Economic protesters from the Occupy L.A. campsite at Los Angeles City Hall are on their way to join dozens of union supporters demonstrating in front of the newly refurbished Hotel Bel-Air, organizer Mario Brito said Friday afternoon.
The swanky spa and hotel is reopening after a two-year renovation with only about a dozen of its former union workers on the staff of 275, dealing a blow to the UNITE Local 11 hotel workers union and its members. UNITE contends the hotel used the renovation as a pretext to destroy union jobs.
Public relations representatives and executives of the hotel did not return calls for comment.
"We're lending support to the struggle against a company so greedy they want to hire the lowest denominator," Brito said by cellphone, over the whoops and chanting of protesters aboard the union-supplied bus.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, in a phone call from the scene, said he supported the workers' protest.
"We had hoped the management would hire back the original workers that are in the demonstration," Rosendahl said. "They did not give everybody an opportunity to come back in that had worked there for many, many years."
Rosendahl said he could see 300 to 400 demonstrators marching from the hotel grounds to Sunset Boulevard. They could be heard over the phone chanting, "We are the 99%."
Los Angeles Police Officer Raymond Barron said several dozen officers are at the hotel, with others on standby, if the protest turns chaotic. He said it had been orderly so far.
"So far, so good," Barron said.
Motorcycle officers also are out in force to help with traffic if the marchers reach Sunset Boulevard, Barron added.
The Occupy L.A. protesters are demonstrating against what they say are government policies favoring corporations and the wealthiest Americans. Kwazi Nkrumah, one of the protesters, said the union dispute dovetails with their aims.
"It's fundamental to fight for working people who are involved in direct contests with corporate interests," Nkrumah said.
-- Gale Holland
Photo: Union member Alyssa Giachino protests in front of the Hotel Bel-Air. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.