Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Hotel owners behind police clashes with union give big to newly minted Democrat Fletcher
Newport Beach-based Tarsadia Investments family gives major money to Ex-Republican Qualcomm executive; Unite Here Local 30 vows Hilton boycott
With union-backed mayor Bob Filner deposed, the epic battle between labor and capital for control of San Diego's city hall has resumed with a vengeance, based on campaign cash disclosures filed by two putative major candidates.
Yesterday, as reported by Dorian Hargrove, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO, filed with the city clerk a statement of organization for a new campaign committee, Working Families for A Better San Diego to Support David Alvarez for Mayor 2013. Big labor is expected to funnel major money into the effort.
Meanwhile, another Democratic mayoral candidate, ex-Republican Assemblyman and Qualcomm development director Nathan Fletcher, is getting big cash from the other side of the labor-management divide.
According to a disclosure statement filed yesterday by the Fletcher for Mayor 2013 committee and posted online by the city clerk's office, seven members of the Patel family, whose Tushar B. Patel is listed on the disclosure as CEO of Newport Beach-based Tarsadia Investments, have kicked in a total of $7,000 to Fletcher's bid for mayor.
Through various business arrangements, Tarsadia and members of the Patel family have interests in a swath of hotels, including the Mission Valley Hilton, where a nasty labor dispute with Local 30 of United Here, the hotel workers union, has been underway for several years.
Don Bauder first reported the ongoing controversy here in February 2012:
In May of last year, a hundred Local 30 workers, chanting and beating drums and pots, picketed the Hilton. In August, more than 25 workers at the hotel filed claims with the state labor commission for wage theft and related labor violations.
The workers complained that they were not compensated fully for hours worked and were denied breaks and rest periods. The claims came to $250,000.
In November, Unite Here workers picketed again.
The dispute became even more heated after it was announced that Connecticut-based HEI Hotels & Resorts was transferring control of the property to a Tarsadia affiliate.
“We were not warmly received by Tarsadia,” Local 30 president Brigette Browning told Bauder. “We took employees to the corporate headquarters in Newport Beach.
"All we were asking was for them not to fire employees; we were not asking them to go union. We got thrown out. [Tarsadia] called the police.” Tarsadia did not respond to Bauder's queries.
This March the situation neared the boiling point again when hotel workers and their supporters attempted to picket the Hilton property, as Bauder reported.
Twenty hotel workers were arrested last night (March 1) at the Hilton Mission Valley.
By one account, 250 workers, community activists, and clergy members were there to protest low wages and job insecurity. The workers represent Local 30 of the Unite Here union of hotel and restaurant workers, whose pay is among the lowest in San Diego County.
Workers subsequently conducted a hunger strike against the property.
Interviewed this afternoon by phone, Browning said that the battle continues, adding that United Here is planning to launch a boycott of the hotel in the near future. Calls placed to Tarsadia have not been returned.