Unite Here Local 11, the union backing laid-off Chateau Marmont workers, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, alleging that management at the Andre Balazs-owned hotel was unlawfully “engaging in surveillance or creating impression of surveillance of employees’ union activities.”
The charge is the latest move in the ongoing conflict between Chateau Marmont, known for its frequent Hollywood guests, and the more-than-200 hotel workers there who were let go without severance in March of last year when the COVID-19 pandemic first took root in the U.S.
Local 11 represents over 32,000 Southern California and Arizona workers, most of whom are women and people of color, employed at hotels, restaurants, airports and sports stadiums. A number of former Chateau workers had staged demonstrations outside of the hotel in the spring, prompting public support from A-listers such as Jane Fonda, Alfonso Cuaron, and writer-director Aaron Sorkin. “Being the Ricardos,” a film directed by Sorkin, canceled a shoot scheduled to take place at the hotel in solidarity with the Chateau workforce, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which also reported in depth last September on allegations of racial discrimination, harassment and toxicity at the iconic hotel on Sunset Boulevard. The California Democratic Party has also endorsed the boycott of the famed hotel.
According to Wednesday’s filing, the union alleges that Chateau Marmont managing director Amanda Grandinetti, one unidentified individual and an unnamed security guard unlawfully surveilled or appeared to surveil worker demonstrations in three instances between April and May.
A Chateau Marmont spokesperson said via email that “this meritless claim is just another attempt by Unite Here Local 11 to harass a non-union hotel — a hotel which actually provides significantly better pay and health benefits to its employees than the union does for the same positions.”
The establishment announced plans a year ago to shift gears and transform the hotel into a private members club by the end of 2020, with Balazs telling Variety last August that he believes the hotel industry is “unlikely to come back for maybe two-and-a-half years.” He also said then that donated $100,000 to be dispersed among his former employees.
At least two lawsuits have been filed against the hotel in the past year alleging racial discrimination in the workplace. And several ex-employees told Variety in the spring that issues with the Chateau’s work environment long preceded the pandemic. Alejandro Roldan, who worked at the Chateau as a houseman for $16 an hour until the pandemic hit, alleged that it was not uncommon to find “a lot of bottles, a lot of drugs” in the rooms occupied by hard-partying guests, making it challenging for the housekeeping staff to do their jobs. “It was hard because most of the rooms are super dirty.”
Meanwhile, Walter Almendarez, who worked at the Chateau for 23 years until last March, most recently as a bellman and valet, said that he had not received a raise in six years and was asked to take on additional duties after other employees left. He said he was laid off with just a few days’ notice and no severance or insurance.
“We got fired with nothing. I had to take my 401K, I had to go to the food banks,” said Almendarez. The once-longtime Chateau staffer is primary breadwinner while his wife takes care of their infant; he has been delivering packages part time to earn income and has begun training to work at Metro public transportation.
“Chateau Marmont and Andre Balazs’ pandemic profiteering seemingly has no limits,” said Unite Here Local 11 co-president Kurt Petersen in a statement Wednesday. “The hotel fired their workers and cut off health insurance at the outset of this pandemic. And when workers rise up to fight for their jobs, the Chateau’s top manager spied on them. Balazs and his managers should be fired.”