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Workers strike at private downtown club over wage freeze

December 15, 2011 |  8:24 am

California Club on Flower Street
Workers at an exclusive private business club in downtown Los Angeles walked off the job Thursday in protest of management's demands for a six-month wage freeze.

About 150 California Club employees were planning to join in the strike.

The California Club, founded in 1887, is one of the bastions of Los Angeles' old-school elite. Its members over the years have included such powerbrokers as Gaylord Wilshire, William Mulholland, Norman Chandler and Richard J. Riordan.

The club became a magnet for controversy in the 1980s over its membership policies, which excluded women and minorities until then, and it has struggled financially in more recent years.

In 2009, the most recent year for which financial statements were available, the club reported a $1.4-million net loss.

Leigh Shelton, a spokeswoman for UNITE HERE Local 11, said workers agreed to a wage freeze in 2009 and to higher healthcare contributions in 2010 because the club's management said the business was struggling.

Shelton said the workers were upset by the proposal of another freeze, especially because the club spent a substantial amount of money on renovations last year.

"They look and see what the members are making," she said. "For the rich, the economy is just fine."

General Manager Peter Schaub said the club has continued to struggle in the stagnant economy, although he did not give numbers.

"The economy obviously has had a negative effect on most businesses, and we're no different," he said.

Schaub said the negotiations are ongoing and "we hope that we can get back to the table with both sides" to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

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-- Abby Sewell

Photo: A 1981 file photo of the California Club building on Flower Street. Credit: Bruce Boehner

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