Equality California, one of the most powerful gay rights groups in California, appears ready to party down today at a restaurant with a reputation for not allowing its workers to unionize.
cross a union picket line today at 5 p.m.
EQCA, led by executive director Geoff Kors, is holding a party at the El Paseo Inn in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate Mexico City's legalization of gay marriage.
The only problem, according Richard Zaldivar, founder of The Wall Las Memorias Project, an HIV/AIDS education group based in Los Angeles, is that no social justice groups in L.A.'s Latino community meet there because of its reputation as being hostile towards worker unionization.
In fact, Unite Here Local 11 picketed the El Paseo as recently as
just last week Monday for that very reason.
"Equality California," writes Zaldivar in a Facebook post, "if we want the Latinos to support the cause of our LGBT community, then you need to support our workers."
Guess EQCA didn't do their homework ... or didn't reach out to activists like Zaldivar when planning the shindig.
Zaldivar tells the Weekly he's now trying to get the event moved. If that doesn't happen, he and his group won't be attending the party, which, according to Equality California's Facebook posting, "will have lots of media there, particularly Spanish language media."
If Spanish-speaking press knows about the El Paseo controversy, and they most probably will, the entire scene today could turn into quite the public relations and political snafu not only for EQCA, but the entire gay community as it continues to fight to overturn Proposition 8.
Interestingly enough, EQCA is taking part in a boycott of two hotels owned by Doug Manchester in San Diego -- Manchester gave $125,000 to the "Yes on 8" campaign. That boycott has the support of labor unions.
We'll see how things develop, but Zaldivar says the El Paseo incident is just one more example of Equality California being tone deaf when it comes to communities of color.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.
(UPDATE: Equality California Marriage Director Marc Solomon called and
text-messaged us on Thursday, not very pleased we had written that
EQCA was crossing a union picket line so the gay rights giant could
throw a pro-gay marriage party at El Paseo Inn in downtown LA.
We may have been a little clumsy in making our points, so we decided to clarify a
few things, with past language crossed out.
Our reference to the "union picket line" had to do with the fact that
Unite Here Local 11 had recently picketed El Paseo. We also wrote the demonstration happened last week, but
it actually took place on Monday.
Three days later, Equality California held its party.
This angered HIV/AIDS activist Richard Zaldivar, who says social justice
groups in L.A.'s Latino community make a point of not frequenting the
restaurant because it has an anti-union reputation -- the kind of reputation
that Unite Here picketed on Monday. A well-known activist in the Latino community, who wanted to remain anonymous, confirmed Zaldivar's take on the situation with us.
Solomon didn't talk about Zaldivar's problems with the EQCA party, but instead picked a bone with us for writing that EQCA was crossing a
union picket line on Thursday. We didn't mean to be read that literally and were referring to the fact that El Paseo had been picketed by a labor union. But
since other people may have read it that way too, we've adjusted the
wording and the headline, which once read, "Will Equality California Cross A Union Picket Line?"
Zaldivar still isn't pleased with Equality California.
When asked for a comment about Solomon's objections to our post, the activist writes in an email: "Where is the political and cultural sensitivity
of (Equality California)? Many of us worked many years with organized labor to
strong partnership. How can we expect the unions to support same sex
marriage when someone in the LGBT does not support them? Last night, when the event came to an end,
the restaurant closed and made their profit; the workers went home
with the same pay and working conditions. Arrogance!"
Unite Here's Kristin Reeg, who said the picket took place on Monday, declined to answer specific questions about the El Paseo controversy during a phone interview, and instead sent us a prepared statement via email.
Reeg writes: "Unite Here Local 11 held a picket line at El Paseo Cafe in downtown LA
to call attention to the fact that employees of El Paseo Cafe are not
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covered by a union contract. Local 11 has not called a boycott of El
Paseo Cafe and does not object to Equality CA holding its event there.
Local 11 does encourage all patrons of El Paseo Cafe to wear buttons to
show that they support restaurant workers' rights to form a union.")