Advertisement
California

L.A. acts to keep some laid-off workers from being replaced by newer, cheaper labor

Chateau Marmont hotels
The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday for new rehiring rules for laid-off workers, after hearing from former employees of the Chateau Marmont and other hotels.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Hotels, sports arenas and selected other businesses that imposed layoffs in recent weeks could be required to offer those jobs to their former employees once they start rehiring, under a proposal backed Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council.

Council members voted 15-0 to draft an ordinance requiring employers in the hospitality, property management and other targeted industries to reach out to their pool of workers who lost jobs during the coronavirus outbreak, with rehiring based on seniority.

The measure is meant to ensure that workers — especially those who are older and more experienced — are not replaced by newer, cheaper labor once the economy rebounds, said Councilman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the west San Fernando Valley.

“This is really important to protect vulnerable workers who’ve had these jobs for a long time, have given to the company,” he said. “It makes sense for us to provide them basic protections so that they know that when this pandemic is over, their company will take them back.”

Advertisement

Backed by unions that represent custodians, hotel employees and airport workers, the “right of recall” proposal would apply to event venues with more than 1,000 seats, such as stadiums and concert halls; hotels with at least 50 rooms; some companies that operate at airports; and commercial properties such as offices, shopping centers or factories that employ at least 25 janitorial, maintenance and security workers.

The council acted after hearing pleas from laid-off hotel workers, who said the proposal would provide them more certainty about their futures.

“I don’t have any insurance. I have a 7-month-old baby ... and I’m worried if she gets sick, how I’m gonna do it if I don’t have no money,” said Walter Almendarez, a laid-off bellman at the Chateau Marmont.

Advertisement

André Balazs, the owner of the Chateau Marmont, could not be reached to discuss the measure. But on a GoFundMe page for his hotel’s laid off workers, he said this year’s “drastic and unspeakably painful layoffs” could not be avoided.

“The Chateau is committing to recall workers as needed and, when possible, by seniority when business returns to normal,” Balazs wrote.

Many other businesses would not be covered by the council’s proposal, including restaurants that are not located on hotel properties.

The rehiring rules also would not apply to nonprofit higher education institutions that operate medical centers in the city.

Advertisement

Councilman Curren Price, whose district includes the University of Southern California, proposed that exemption; his spokeswoman Angelina Valencia said it would apply to such entities as USC and UCLA.

Unionized businesses are also exempt from the rules if workers already have retention rights under their contracts.

Once the city’s lawyers have drafted the ordinance, it will come back to the council for final approval. Mayor Eric Garcetti has already publicly stated that he plans to sign such an ordinance, saying skilled workers “need to be the first ones to be rehired.”

The council’s plan drew opposition from several business groups, including the California Employment Law Council, whose board members include representatives of FedEx and Sempra Energy.

Advertisement

In a letter to the council ahead of Wednesday’s vote, the group said the measure would “weaken” the city’s largest private employers and violate state and federal law, sparking lawsuits against the city at a time when “Los Angeles should be focusing on recovery.”

The Hotel Assn. of Los Angeles also attacked the proposal, calling it “a direct slap” to their industry that would leave them vulnerable to lawsuits when the crisis subsides.

Heather Rozman, executive director of the association, said hotels should have the flexibility to decide who to rehire first — for instance, bringing back a newer employee who is a single parent before a longtime employee who has paid off their house.

The law “really just micromanages the hiring process,” she said.

Advertisement

The council also voted to draft a “worker retention” ordinance that would require businesses that change owners to rehire and retain workers employed by the previous company. That measure is designed to prevent more turmoil for employees during the pandemic.

The proposal is also limited to hotels and other targeted industries.


Newsletter
The stories shaping California

Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.
Advertisement