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Long Beach hotels plan layoffs before living wage takes effect

December 14, 2012 |  4:11 pm

One week before a new minimum wage law for Long Beach hotels goes into effect, two hotels have told employees to expect layoffs of as many as 75 people, according to union representatives.

At a confrontation with union activists Friday, a manager at one of the hotels, the Best Western Golden, denied that a local ballot measure triggered the cuts. He said bad economic conditions were to blame.

In November, Long Beach voters approved a measure requiring hotels with 100 or more rooms to pay their employees $13 an hour.

In a letter to employees posted at the hotel Monday, the Best Western said it planned to downsize and reopen under new management. Although the letter said some employees would eventually be retained, it said all employees would be without a job as of Saturday and would be eligible for $1,000 severance packages.

“All employees will be considered terminated after their last shift of duty on or before December 15, 2012,” reads the letter from General Manager Matthew Daniel.

Hotel workers and protesters confronted Daniel at a restaurant Friday morning. He blamed the economy, not the ballot measure, and declined to discuss the matter further.

When he walked away, the protesters followed him through the hotel chanting, "Si se puede."

Earlier this month, the 140-room Hotel Current told employees it would scale back to 99 rooms to avoid  the wage increase. Hotel managers could not be immediately be reached for comment.

Before election day, Long Beach business leaders warned of cutbacks if the measure passed, but the living wage provision for all hotel workers won the approval of 64% of voters anyway.

Standing in front of the Best Western during a press conference Friday afternoon, Leigh Shelton, spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel and food workers, called the hotel the “worst, horrific example” of slashing workers in reaction to the ballot measure.

According to Shelton, at least six Best Western workers have already been let go. She said as many as 75 others are expected to be terminated.

“This is a cynical and a dishonorable attempt to circumvent the wishes of the residents of Long Beach,” said newly elected Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). “This will be our first stand and this will be our last stand; we’re going to win this fight here and make sure the hotels throughout the city realize we’re not going to put up with this.”

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-- Ruben Vives in Long Beach and Wesley Lowery in Los Angeles

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