> Friday, August 4, 2000
>Gore Donor's Labor Feud May Embarrass Democrats
>By NANCY CLEELAND, Times Staff Writer
>A major contributor to Al Gore's campaign is being vilified for
>fighting recent union efforts in Santa Monica, setting up a potentially
>embarrassing confrontation between labor and big money during the
>Jonathan Tisch, the New York-based CEO of Loews Hotels, has been lampooned
>by puppeteers and found guilty in a mock trial by union protesters outside
>his Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The hotel is in a bitter fight with
>Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, which is seeking to
>about 300 housekeepers and other service workers.
>This week, activists were further incensed when financial statements
>revealed the hotel was the single largest contributor to an effort to
>labor-backed living wage ordinance in Santa Monica.
>Tisch, an heir to the $21-billion Tisch family fortune, is an old friend
>Gore's and a longtime political donor, contributing more than $150,000
>the last two years to Gore and the Democratic National Committee. Tisch
>spearheaded several New York fund-raising efforts that gathered millions
>dollars for Gore political action committees.
>A spokeswoman for Loews Hotels in New York said: "The political stuff for
>Jon Tisch is separate from the business dealings." She declined to
>Labor leaders, who are trying to rally support for Gore among
>members, have downplayed the connection. But privately, local activists
>furious that Gore--who portrays himself as an ally of organized
>labor--hasn't intervened to settle the dispute, which is among the most
>heated labor conflicts in the Los Angeles area today.
>"The Loews' situation crystallizes the contradictions between the
>of the Democratic Party and the guiding philosophy and ideals on which it
>was founded," said one HERE union activist who did not want to be
>identified. "It's all there. It's a crucible of what happens when profit
>The conflict is particularly vexing for members and donor friends of the
>Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who were assigned rooms at
>Loews during the Aug. 14-17 convention. The committee spokesman, Erik
>said that if the labor dispute is not resolved soon, the group will find
>"We're not going to cross picket lines," Smith said. "We absolutely
>the right of workers to organize, and we won't do anything hurtful to that
>This isn't the first time a local labor conflict has raised the anxiety
>level of Democratic convention planners. During the last few months,
>tough contracts were hammered out at Staples Center, the convention site,
>members of the Democratic National Convention Committee coaxed and prodded
>in almost daily phone calls.
>Now the DNCC is again stepping in to show support. Lydia Camarrillo, who
>chairs the convention planning effort, will attend a news conference today
>with union leaders to support the organizing drive in Santa Monica.
>"We have been vocally supportive of the workers all along," said Peter
>Ragone, spokesman for the DNCC. "It's not awkward for us because we
>done anything to be embarrassed of."
>A spokesperson for the Gore campaign said questions about the Loews hotel
>were being referred to the DNCC. Also at today's news conference will be
>about a dozen local and state legislators, who will call on Loews to
>neutral in the organizing drive and to recognize the union if a majority
>workers sign authorization cards.
>The hotel, which hired a consultant who specializes in defeating unions,
>insisted on going through a lengthier federal election process. "What they
>want is a gag order, and we're not going to agree to that," said Loews
>spokesman Matt Lonner.
>In a speech to an AFL-CIO convention in October, Gore criticized "union
>busting" consultants and advocated neutrality agreements and a speedier
>A letter from union leaders went out this week to all convention delegates
>asking them to join a protest at Loews on the eve of the convention. The
>rally, set to start a few hours before a party hosted by the Democrats on
>the Santa Monica Pier, will be led by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and John
>Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO.
>"We had very much hoped to avoid this situation," says the letter, signed
>Maria Elena Durazo and Tom Walsh, presidents of the two HERE locals
>in a regional campaign to organize nonunion hotels. The letter promised
>"large-scale demonstrations and other signs of the labor dispute" during
>after the Democratic National Convention.
>Related to the union organizing drive is a novel labor-backed plan to set
>higher minimum wage for workers at hotels, restaurants and retailers in
>Santa Monica's high-priced coastal zone.
>The proposed "living wage" of $10.69 per hour, now being considered by the
>Santa Monica City Council, builds on a national trend in which cities are
>passing such wage floors for their contractors. However, this would be the
>first time a living wage law would apply to private businesses that have
>direct connection to government entities.
>Proponents, including labor activists, have argued that Santa Monica has
>spent millions of dollars to renovate the pier and beachfront attractions,
>which directly benefit the hotels. They argue that workers at those hotels
>should be paid wages that lift them out of poverty.
>Businesses argued that the higher wage would force them to cut jobs.
>countered with their own "living wage" initiative, which would set a
>wage for several hundred city contractors but would exempt hotel,
>and other private employees. Hotels in Santa Monica have raised wages
>substantially since the campaign began two years ago, and some, such as
>Loews, now pay about $9 per hour.
>Half a dozen beachfront hotels spent about $400,000 in the last three
>to promote their initiative, which recently qualified for the ballot in
>Santa Monica. Loews Hotels was the largest donor by far, contributing
>$125,000 to the effort.
>"We see this as a life-and-death fight for the living-wage movement," said
>Vivian Rothstein, an organizer for HERE and a longtime Santa Monica
>activist. "From the very beginning, we've been trying to communicate that
>the Democratic Party. This is an opportunity for [Gore] to come forward
>take a stand."