Column: California politicians ask Taylor Swift to cancel concerts. She won’t shake it off

Taylor Swift performs in Seattle last month.
(Mat Hayward / TAS23 / Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)


That’s “What will Taylor do?” and it’s the only question that matters in Los Angeles this week.

Should Taylor Swift cancel her six sold-out shows at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood to support striking hotel workers? Or blow off labor solidarity in favor of fans who have in some cases traveled thousands of miles and spent thousands of hard-earned dollars to see their idol?

The mere thought of a postponement stokes terror in the hearts of parents whose teenagers would melt down faster than ice in the desert if their coveted tickets were suddenly just bar-coded promises of future fun.


But this week, more than four dozen state and local politicians, including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who is running to be our next governor, sent an open letter to Taylor asking her to “stand with hotel workers” and postpone her L.A. dates.

It’s an ask that Swift can’t just shake off, because hot labor summer has been as fiery as her Eras tour, which may end up being the highest-grossing concert tour in history. Across the country, workers are unionizing and striking, fed up with income inequality and lives of scraping by — as they should be. No one should work full time and still be forced to live in their car, or even on the streets. No one should end the month at a food bank because their paychecks don’t feed their families.

Not a lover of $100 parking spaces? There are plenty of ways to get to Taylor Swift’s concerts at SoFi Stadium by train or bus.

July 31, 2023

Since July 20, the housekeepers, cooks, front desk clerks and other workers of Unite Here Local 11 have been striking against about 60 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Like their striking union sisters and brothers at SAG-AFTRA, they want wages and benefits that keep up with the cost of living. And like their striking siblings, they’ve had little luck convincing bosses to make progress at the bargaining table.

It’s easy to see this letter to Swift as nothing more than a political ploy to grab headlines, and in one way it is. Here we are talking about it.

But it’s also smart strategy. Strikes are about pressure, economic and social, and the juggernaut of these Swift concerts is unprecedented, even by L.A. standards.

Media reports said the dancing and sound from her Seattle show set off the equivalent of a magnitude 2.3 earthquake. And according to some estimates, the tour could generate nearly $4.6 billion in consumer spending in the United States alone, with Swift pulling in $13 million a night just for herself.


With that kind of force, Swift has the power to change the course of the strike, even without canceling a show.

If the striking workers can get her attention, and her sympathy, imagine the power of Swift visiting a picket line for a photo op, or bringing strikers up on stage with her? That’s hundreds of millions of fans who suddenly have no doubt the strikers are in the right.

“When you sit on the sideline and say nothing, I think that’s the worst thing you can possibly do,” Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) told me Wednesday. He’s one of the politicians who signed the letter, and a longtime member of Service Employees International Union 721.

“Everyone needs to take to the streets and say we need to do the right thing,” he said.

Even Swift.

Which is why they asked, and why they think she’ll answer.

In her early years, Swift was staunchly apolitical, fearful, she has said, of Dixie Chicks-style blowback if she stepped out of line in her country music world.

But her world has grown and so has she, and in more recent times she’s become an outspoken powerhouse who can sway public opinion with a single word to her hundreds of millions of fans.

In 2020, she took on Donald Trump during the unrest after the murder of George Floyd. Trump tweeted about wanting to send military troops into Minneapolis.


Swift shot back via Twitter, where she has 93 million followers.

“After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? ‘When the looting starts the shooting starts’??? We will vote you out in November,” she wrote.

More recently during her Chicago concert, she spoke out against the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws that have been passed across the nation.

“Right now and in recent years, there have been so many harmful pieces of legislation that have put people in the LGBTQ and queer community at risk. It’s painful for everyone. Every ally, every loved one, every person in these communities,” Swift reportedly told the crowd.

Parking! Public transit! Fan chants! Friendship bracelets! Everything you need to know before you see Taylor Swift at SoFi Stadium for the L.A. stops of her Eras tour.

Aug. 4, 2023

Swift isn’t blind to the struggles of the working class, either. Just this week, she reportedly gave $55 million in bonuses to nearly everyone toiling on her tour — including a reported $100,000 to each of the truck drivers hauling her gear from town to town.

The owner of one of those trucking companies called it a “life-changing sum of money” for the men and women who have spent the last 24 weeks on the road with Swift, and of course, it is. And it doesn’t hurt the cash came with a handwritten note from the megastar to each of those workers.

And let’s not forget she’s fought the man on her own behalf. For the past few years, Swift has been rerecording her old albums because she doesn’t own the masters to those songs. She signed a bad contract when she was a teenager, giving ownership of them to the label.


Later, the rights to those recordings were purchased by music manager Scooter Braun, with whom Swift has had an epic feud to regain control of her music. Her victory came with deciding to rerecord her early works, giving her complete ownership of the new material and him the proverbial middle finger. So you know she’s a brawler, and believes in fair compensation, even if it requires a fight.

So fear not, Swifties. It’s a good bet your queen will take the stage.

And a good bet she’ll show some solidarity with the workers who made the thousands of beds her crew and fans will sleep in after the show.