July 16, 1998
During a press conference late last year, Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Sholom and Rick Chertoff of the Jewish Labor Committee marched into the hotel lobby and alleged that hotel officials had tried to intimidate workers into voting "no" for the union. They also denounced a poster that hung by the worker's time clock, which, they believed, portrayed a union organizer as a Nazi storm trooper. They scored a small victory when the poster was removed.
Despite a mock vote that had shown overwhelming support for Local 814 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, employees nevertheless voted against the union, 120 to 108, in the real election. Union officials appealed to the National Labor Relations Board, charging that the hotel had engaged in conduct that had tainted the election. Comess-Daniels and Chertoff also sprang to action, helping to author a report outlining the hotel's alleged conduct.
On June 29, an NLRB hearing officer recommended that the election be set aside and a new election conducted. The hotel may appeal that recommendation to the NLRB board in Washington. The Jewish Journal was unable to reach hotel general manager William Worcester for comment. -- Naomi Pfefferman, Senior Writer
A three-year confrontation between management and union has ended at the Summit Hotel on Rodeo Drive with the signing of a contract, substantially improving wages, job security and health and pension benefits for the hotel's predominantly Latino workers.
Resolution of the conflict was announced at a brunch hosted by the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC), which had rallied a number of rabbis and Jewish personalities in support of the workers' grievances and of their union, Local 11 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.
On the other hand, Efrem Harkham, the hotel's owner and a major benefactor of Orthodox organizations and educational institutions, had the backing of a number of prominent Orthodox rabbis.
Among the new contract's provisions, the current $6.55 per hour wage for housekeepers was raised retroactively by $1.90 per hour, with culminative raises over the next six years bringing hourly wages to $11, according to Rick Chertoff, executive director of the JLC.
Harkham was not available for comment but his executive assistant, Anna Gargioni, confirmed the labor dispute had been settled.
At the brunch, the JLC presented awards to Howard Welinsky, incoming president of the Jewish Community Relations Committee, veteran labor leader Elinor Glenn, and State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa.
Chertoff took note of the combined Jewish, Latino and African American support for the hotel workers and the voting pattern by the three groups in defeating Proposition 226, widely viewed as an anti-union measure.
"We are seeing the re-emergence of a multiethnic alliance many had pronounced dead," he said. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Today, I Am A Teenager
The old bar/bat mitzvah adage of "Today I am a man" or "Today I am a woman" was nowhere to be found as 11 b'nai mitzvah were called to the Torah at Congregation B'nai Emet in Simi Valley last week. All of them were already adults, but didn't have a chance to observe the traditional coming of age when they were 13.
Some were converts, others women who were not given the opportunity to have a bat mitzvah. Some just didn't know how to read Hebrew.
"My goal has been to give them skills to enable them to feel comfortable as part of the service," says Rabbi Michele Paskow, leader of the 120-family Reform congregation. "It means a lot to them. It's a big accomplishment."
Congregation B'nai Emet, 4645 Industrial St., Simi Valley, CA 93062; (805) 581-3723. -- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Religion Editor.