By Michael Goldstein
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By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
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By LA Weekly
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"I was considered by other managers not to be part of the team," Black said. "I was alienated by upper management."
Winning became so important a goal to the Miramar, Black said, his own boss told him to spend more time worrying about the union issue and less about hotel guests. "'We need you to stop this union thing,'" Black said, recalling one of the many comments made by Darren Moll, director of restaurants, and Black's immediate boss.
When he was told by his bosses to stand close behind a bartender and well-known union organizer talking to fellow employees - to intimidate the bartender and make sure he knew a manager was watching and listening - Black said no. And when human-resources director Igoa and restaurant director Moll told him to interrupt pro-union workers who were talking to other workers in one of the hotel's restaurants, Black said no again.
However, Black complied with instructions from hotel executives to "back off" disciplining pro-hotel workers. So when a pro-hotel employee showed up drunk, Black had to let it go. And when another pro-hotel worker continued to miss his shifts, Black gave him a slap on the wrist.
"I was fed up with his behavior, but my hands were tied," he said.
Meanwhile, Black said, Igoa and Moll targeted certain workers known as pro-union. One time, Moll told Black that he had specifically assigned a large dinner party to a pro-hotel waiter to reward his loyalty, instead of giving it to a pro-union waiter he criticized for not being "part of the team."
Another time, Black said, Igoa told him to keep a close eye on one particular union organizer. "'If he makes a mistake, I'd like him written up and get him out of here,'" Black said, repeating Igoa's comment. At press time, hotel representatives had not responded at the hearing to Black's allegations.
Labor supporters say the Miramar's campaign against pro-union workers continues, and cite the case of Delmy Falla, a housekeeper and union organizer first terminated by the Miramar in 1996. On April 17, an arbitration panel reinstated Falla with back pay, ending her two-year fight. On April 20, the Miramar fired her again.
In a tersely worded letter copied to Local 814's Petersen, Igoa accuses Falla of disrupting a meeting in her boss's office last September and making derogatory comments. "I have a lot of witnesses saying I wasn't disrespectful," Falla said. "I wasn't even working at the hotel and they fired me. It makes me think the hotel is scared of me, one worker."
Pro-union activists, religious leaders and politicians who organized last year under the name Santa Monicans Allied for Responsible Tourism (SMART) to show solidarity for Miramar workers, plan to march on May 12 from the hotel to Santa Monica City Hall in support of Falla.
The same group conducted a public hearing in December, featuring a lineup of Miramar workers who told stories about the hotel's union-busting techniques, similar to those Black described. In a report derived from the hearing, the SMART activists - clearly sympathetic to the union's cause - accuse the Miramar of creating an unbearable work situation, hostile to union activity. The Santa Monica City Council is scheduled to discuss the report on May 26 and may take action on it.
The report also blasts the NLRB, accusing the labor board of not adequately protecting Miramar workers. Local 814 organizers share that concern and fear the NLRB will favor the hotel in the hearings that are under way. Black's testimony, they say, could make the difference.
"It's hard for me to believe we will not prevail after what we heard," Petersen said. "There's no reason to believe he's not telling the truth."
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