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Rape Becomes Pivotal Issue in Restaurant Local’s Election : Union: 5,000 workers are sharply divided over the organization’s response to an attack on a representative collecting dues in Anaheim.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

This busy intersection at Lincoln and Brookhurst, with the Linbrook bowling alley here, Granny’s Donuts on that corner over there, the Minit Lube across the street and six lanes of traffic whizzing through the middle, hardly seems the sort of place where a terrible crime occurred.

But when darkness falls, this rather ordinary neighborhood of auto parts stores and Mexican restaurants can be a lonely and dangerous place.

Stephanie Hundley-Paul, 42, discovered this just before 9 o’clock on a warm night in August, when a young man with a blue-steel revolver raped her for an hour and a half in a van in the bowling alley parking lot.

Unlike most rape victims, Hundley-Paul was working when she was attacked: As a union representative, she was at the Linbrook Bowl in Anaheim collecting dues from the waitresses on behalf Local 681 of the Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Union.

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At the end of last year, when she had not returned to work as a field representative after several months, the union said it needed to hire a replacement and let Hundley-Paul go.

Despite what she said were repeated requests, the local did not begin a rape prevention program for its other women field agents. Last month, after she prodded the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an inspector cited the local and ordered it to establish such a program.

As she was recuperating at home last fall, Hundley-Paul said, she tried to get the union to invite Anaheim police to teach rape prevention to the local’s thousands of waitresses, bartenders and chambermaids.

The union, she said, resisted because it “wanted to sweep the whole thing under the rug.” The union heatedly denies this.

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The lectures never occurred. Then, in February, a man tried to rape a union waitress at the Kettle Restaurant, a few blocks down Lincoln Avenue from where Hundley-Paul was assaulted; he was driven off only because a customer happened to wander out into the parking lot after paying his bill.

Had the union sponsored rape prevention lectures, that waitress might not have been attacked, she said.

Now rape has become one of the central issues in a bitter struggle for control of Local 681, a struggle that’s tearing the 5,000-member local apart.

What makes all this even more unusual is that Local 681 President Steven A. Beyer, 39, is not your traditional labor leader. He looks, in fact, like a prosperous young lawyer, something he might have become had he not joined the labor movement. A management lawyer who has opposed him once said approvingly that Beyer is “very sharp. . . . He’s part of the new cadre of union leaders who wear coats and ties and look like they’re going to work at a bank.”

Fourteen years ago, Beyer was a young waiter at a French restaurant in Fullerton called the Cellar; he was working his way through his first year of law school when he was fired for trying to organize the restaurant’s two dozen or so employees.

David L. Schultz, then president of Local 681, liked the cocky young waiter. Schultz hired him at the union and later groomed Beyer to succeed him. When Schultz retired three years ago, Beyer was elected to a three-year term as president.

Since Beyer has taken over, the local has taken on a more liberal stance. Beyer’s administrative assistant, for instance, is Jeff LeTorneau, one of the county’s best-known gay activists. Last year, the union negotiated protection for gay employees into its contract with Disneyland.

Beyer hired women for management jobs where, he said, his predecessor had usually hired them as secretaries.

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But these are tough times for unions, even in the service industry, which used to churn out jobs like clockwork. In Orange County, a hotel building boom in the 1980s created thousands of new jobs, but it also meant that there was a lot more competition for guests. Hoteliers had to cinch their belts and hold down costs--including wages--to pay the mortgage. Now nobody’s building hotels anymore.

And the union has changed in the last 10 years--nearly half of its members are Latino--and some members are saying that their president is out of touch, that he seems more like a hotel manager than a union leader.

Most of the local’s Latinos work in what is called “the back of the house”; they are the unseen hands that wash the dishes and make the beds in the hotels--hard, dirty, low-paying work.

Angela Keefe, a former Local 681 organizer who is running for president against Beyer, said: “The fact that it’s taking a herculean effort to get a little democracy in this union is a good lesson in the nuts and bolts of how unions got in the shape they’re in today.

“We’re going to make this a much more militant union.”

Keefe, two women field representatives and another male field rep were fired by Beyer in May after they announced that they had been secretly planning to run for office against him. For the women in particular, Hundley-Paul’s rape is considered a central issue in the campaign.

Keefe, who is white and bilingual, likes to make the point that Beyer does not speak Spanish and that his salary in 1990 was nearly $60,000, according to federal Department of Labor records. This is in a union where the average wage for members is $14,000 a year.

She has also scored points by pointing out that the other dozen or so candidates running with him include not a single Latino. Her campaign is pitched to them, the people most likely to be turned off by a preppie-looking white guy in a suit running the union.

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“Their campaign has gotten very ugly--it’s been a wedge driven right down the middle of the local,” said LeTorneau, who is white and supports Beyer. “They’re making a strong racist appeal by focusing on white versus brown.”

The local can sling mud too. At 29, Keefe is too young, too incompetent, too dishonest and too inexperienced to run the local, Beyer said.

“People are wondering if she’ll stab them in the back like she did to me,” he said. “Angela’s boisterous, out of control. She’s an agitator.”

One thing is clear: The union--like the local economy--is not in very good shape.

Local 681 has been unable to negotiate new contracts for hundreds of waiters, busboys and dishwashers at the posh Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach and the big Inn at the Park in Anaheim. Consequently, those members are not paying their $23-a-month dues. Beyer blames Keefe, his former head of organizing; in fact, he was going to fire her anyway, Beyer said, calling her incompetent. She blames him.

The only thing both sides agree about is that the June 26 election is the first within memory to be seriously contested at Local 681. The contest, in fact, is going to be close.

One hundred and thirteen women told police that someone raped them or tried to rape them last year in Anaheim. Each of the previous few years, in fact, 90 to 110 women have reported rapes or rape attempts in this city of a quarter-million people, a city with something of a split personality: While it’s home to Disneyland, luxury hotels, the Rams football club and the Angels baseball team, it’s also traversed by some of the county’s meanest, most crime-ridden streets.

And those rape figures may be seriously understated, since experts estimate that up to two-thirds of all crime victims never tell police. The reasons: They think that the cops will be indifferent, or that it simply won’t do any good, or that the stigma of rape and the embarrassment of a trial is too high a price to pay.

And nobody, experts say, keeps track of how many women are raped at work. But even if it’s only a small fraction of the 208,000 rapes or attempted rapes the Justice Department estimates to have occurred last year in the United States, that would still be several thousand rapes. “The amazing thing about rape,” said a veteran detective who’s investigated hundreds ofthem, “is that it can happen anywhere.”

That wasn’t news to Stephanie Hundley-Paul. When she went out at night to visit her “houses"--the restaurants, lounges and hotels where the union represented workers--she took a 104-pound Rottweiler named Feona the Union Dog. The night she was raped, she left the dog at home.

As a field rep, she collected dues, settled grievances and helped when the union tried to organize a restaurant. You’ll never get rich, of course, working for a union: the salary was $25,000 a year. But she hadn’t got rich from being a waitress since she was 15, either, sometimes in non-union restaurants where “they could fire you at will or pinch you if the manager felt like it.” And besides, it felt good to be able to help the waitresses fight back.

Sometimes, though, the job took her into a bad neighborhood at night. That began to worry even Hundley-Paul, who had never thought much about rape before.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to water the lawn at midnight,” said Hundley-Paul, a petite, cheerful woman whose Long Beach bungalow is crowded with books, pictures, prints and knickknacks. “I was a little oblivious at first to the fact that something could happen to me on the job.

“The job had always been done by men. So it was uncool to say, ‘I feel unsafe,’ and for the most part I didn’t feel unsafe--although there were a couple of restaurants that were downright eerie,” she said, sipping coffee at the table in her small kitchen.

“The few times I did bring it up at staff meetings, that women shouldn’t be visiting some of these places alone, they made me feel like a little girl.

“So I stopped bringing it up.”

“Blatant lies,” said Beyer, who said he was solicitous of women employees’ safety and even suggested that they travel in pairs when working at night.

Whatever the case, Hundley-Paul was not the only union staff member who said she was worried--and the worry got a lot worse after the rape.

“I once saw a man beaten in front of one of my restaurants,” said Janine Licausi, 28, a field agent hired in November, after the rape. She has since been fired and is running against Beyer’s candidate for recording secretary.

Licausi said that after she was hired, she asked Beyer where the rape had occurred.

“He said it wasn’t important ,” Licausi said.

It wasn’t until she started making calls at Linbrook Bowl, she said, that the waitresses told her that Stephanie Hundley-Paul had been raped in the parking lot outside.

Last month, a Cal/OSHA inspector showed up at Local 681’s new headquarters for three days.

That an inspector showed up at all was a victory for Hundley-Paul; when she first went to the inspectors in Cal/OSHA’s Anaheim office, they had not wanted to get involved. Rape is a criminal matter, they told her, something for police to handle.

When she persisted, though, the agency asked its attorneys in San Francisco whether it could apply to Hundley-Paul’s case a year-old law requiring employers to have written safety plans. The law was intended mostly for manufacturing plants where it’s more likely that people will be killed or seriously injured.

The lawyers, though, said the law applied even to workers who were sexually assaulted while working outside the office. Subsequently, the inspector found that the union had just a two-page safety plan, with nothing in it about how field reps should avoid rape or assault.

In May, Cal/OSHA wrote what it says is an unusual citation against the union, saying the local should have had a written plan telling how it will train its field workers to avoid, in agency jargon, “assault and robbery in geographic areas of vulnerability.”

On the same day that the inspector arrived--May 6--Hundley-Paul marched into the union offices with Gloria Allred, the high-powered civil rights attorney from Los Angeles. Hundley-Paul wanted her job, back wages and punitive damages. She hadn’t been physically or emotionally ready to come back to work last fall, Hundley-Paul contended, when Beyer was pressuring her into either returning to work or losing her job.

Firing her, Beyer says now, “was the hardest decision I had to make in my entire life, not just in the union.” But work was piling up, and the other three field reps who are now complaining about her firing were complaining then about picking up her load.

The women field reps running against Beyer said that’s not true, that they offered to fill in for Hundley-Paul indefinitely.

Whatever the case, experts said it can take several years for a woman to recover fully from the psychological aftereffects of rape, which include anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, trouble with work and relationships and even physical problems.

Indeed, some women never recover. “You could be the most well-adjusted person who ever was, and you’d suffer trauma,” said Mary Koss, a professor at the University of Arizona’s medical school and a national expert on rape. “It can do a lot of damage.”

In the months after the rape, Hundley-Paul said, she threw herself into trying to start a rape awareness program for union members; she also wanted to write about rape prevention in the union newsletter she edited. Steve Beyer, she said, wouldn’t let her.

“You’d expect that kind of response from an employer,” she said. “But from a union ?”

That’s a complete fabrication, said Beyer, who said he approved all these suggestions. But Hundley-Paul, he said, never followed through because she never returned to work.

The union dissidents, he suggested, are using Hundley-Paul’s rape for propaganda purposes.

Hundley-Paul replied: “Why would I lie? I’m not running for anything.”

Norma P. Barretta of Lomita, Hundley-Paul’s therapist, confirmed that Hundley-Paul last fall discussed her frustrations over being denied permission to start a “buddy system,” under which women field reps would accompany each other on their rounds at night or to let her write about the rape for the newsletter.

Hundley-Paul, meanwhile, is still seeing the therapist once a week and is in physical therapy for a bone bruised during the rape.

“Part of her problem in trying to recover from this,” said Barretta, who spoke to a reporter with Hundley-Paul’s permission, “is that it’s not over, because she’s lost her job, and no safety program was ever set up.”

“As soon as all these things are settled, the recovery should progress much faster,” she said.

Meanwhile, at the Anaheim Police Department, there is a part in the police report on Stephanie Hundley-Paul’s rape that asks: “Is there a good possibility of solution?”

Someone has checked the box that says simply: “No.”


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