By Greggory Moore
Councilmembers Patrick O'Donnell and Suja Lowenthal, along with Sen. Ricardo Lara, at the Golden Sails on December 22. Photo by Leigh Shelton.
Shortly before the holidays, the Best Western Golden Sails Hotel received a visit from four Long Beach councilmembers and a state senator, all concerned that the downsizing the hotel was undertaking less than a week before Measure N went into effect was a maneuver to avoid complying with the "living wage" initiative.
On December 10, a memo from Golden Sails General Manager Mathew Daniel alerted all employees to the fact that they would be terminated on December 16 as a result of the hotel's being downsized—due to insufficient occupancy rates, the memo indicated—though most would be rehired by a "new corporation" that was taking over.
Upon learning of the Golden Sails' plans, Councilmembers Suja Lowenthal, Patrick O'Donnell, Al Austin and Steven Neal, along with State Senator Ricardo Lara, trekked out to the hotel on December 22 to make it clear to management that they desired the will of the voters, as expressed by way of the passage of Measure N, to be respected.
"I was at the Golden Sails standing up for democracy and standing with the workers and their families," says O'Donnell. "We need to make sure that the will of the voters is followed."
Neal offers the same rationale for his presence. "Unfortunately," he notes, "no one from the hotel management was willing to speak with us on that particular afternoon."
Lowenthal says that although she "never expected any real feedback from Golden Sails management," she nonetheless "felt it was important to show up and lend support to the hotel workers."
Measure N, which was passed in last November's election, mandates that all hotels with over 100 rooms pay its employees a minimum of $13 per hour. Prior to the downsizing, the Golden Sails was listed as a 173-room hotel. According to a front-desk employee, since the downsizing has been completed, the hotel has 98 rooms—just below the threshold at which Measure N takes effect.
When reached by the Post for comment, Senator Lara did not pull any punches.
"I believe that any attempt to undo the will of the voters is unjust and cowardly," he said. "Prior to Measure N, [Long Beach] hotel employees' wages were among the lowest in the industry. These employees, who work day in and day out to take care of our citizens and communities by doing work that often goes unnoticed and unrewarded, rightfully deserve access to a living wage and sick days. In a local economy where the hotel industry is 10 percent of the employment rate, it does not make sense to demoralize, mistreat, and get rid of hard working employees."
Management at the Golden Sails did not reply to the Post's requests for comment.
Neal says he believes Measure N is not only good for the hotel workers it affects, but also a good thing for Long Beach as a whole.
"I think with Measure N we enhance our standing the region," Neal says. "When you look at cities like Los Angeles and Santa Monica, they all have living-wage ordinances […] I believe in the philosophy that if you help the people that have the least, you really improve the lot for everyone. […] In the long run it will put us in a more competitive position [in the region] for business, for tourism."
Lara says he will not stop fighting for Measure N and similar employee protections, and he calls upon the Long Beach City Council to do what is necessary to that effect.
"I will continue to work with local government officials to ensure that employees' rights are protected and the will of the voters is carried out," Lara told the Post. "I urge the council to close any loopholes that may interfere with the full implementation of Measure N."