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A Whopping Dilemma

This weekend my friends at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center will hold their annual gala dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Century City.  Its been at that venue for years–one of the only spaces in town able to hold so many guests and accommodate their always amazing silent auction.

But in October Unite Here, Hotel and Restaurant workers union called for a boycott of the Hyatt because of ongoing labor disputes.  The Hyatt management won’t sit down to good faith bargaining with the union.  This summer there was a massive clergy protest against the Hyatt in West Hollywood (the Andaz) which stopped traffic on Sunset Blvd and resulted in the arrests of several clergy including rabbis.

The unions have been strong allies of the LGBT community. And the LGBT community has worked closely with Unions.  But now this weekend there is a clash.   One part of the LGBT community is calling for a protest against the Hyatt Century City while the Center event is taking place and guests are arriving.  Even the Speaker of the Assembly, John Perez ( a former Union organizer) has called for the boycott and is standing with the boycott.

In full disclosure I signed on as a clergy person in support of the workers and in protest of Hyatt management last July!

I do feel for Lorri Jean and the Center Leadership because they are caught.  The contract with the Hyatt for their event happened long ago before there were labor problems.  And to cancel the event would be difficult and disasterous financially for the Center.

But the Union hasn’t helped either to help them move the event or cooperate with the Center (which supports the Union and the workers) to say something about it at their dinner and educate the more than 1000 guests who will be there.

I hope Lorri does so.  Just as I hope she and other leaders will understand why I can’t go to the Center Dinner this year.  I will make my donation to the Center still and I urge you to do so.  But I believe that the workers of the Hyatt deserve better than they are getting.  And better than they are being treated by management.

The Unions are our allies and we have to stand with them. They put their footsoldiers in our service against Prop 8 and will do so again, the next round. They help educate especially in the Latino community on issues of lgbt equality.  This is important help.

Just as the Center does such important work.

Indeed a whopping dillemma.  I say send the Center a donation–but don’t cross the picket line.

9 thoughts on “A Whopping Dilemma”

  1. Unsatisfying as it might be, your solution is the only honorable one possible, IMO. Though for fun, you might consider standing outside with a snappy picket sign, something along the lines of “Another lesbian rabbi who doesn’t cross picket lines” 😉

  2. Dear Rabbi,

    Sometimes the Union makes bad decisions and this action is a prime example of one.

    I have NEVER crossed a picket line in my 64 years here on this earth.

    But tomorrow night I will have NO anxiety/guilt about crossing that line.

    I strongly support the union movement but NOT whether or not their(the leadership)is right or wrong.

    As you are well aware, putting on an event for well over a thousand people is not just making a dinner reservation. There are very few venues that have that capacity and these sites are booked a year in advance.

    The Center was notified barely a month ago. The Center’s management did attempt to see if the Bonaventure was available. While at that moment the evening was open but they would not let us prepare for the event during the day which made that option unacceptable.

    As you all know, the Center provides critical social services to the most needy LGBT members in the greater Los Angeles area.
    To target this social services organization can only be perceived by myself as cold, very very cold. The union has now been on strike for some time and has NOT picketed other events that have taken place at Century Plaza. Why target the Center? Why target the population that needs our help the most? I don’t get it.

    1. Rabbi Jonathan Klein

      Actually, the Center was notified in April that there were problems brewing. Moreover, there are two venues available (or were as of last week). There’s a lot of inconsistencies that are actually contributing to this mess. Also, I KNOW that there are other protests, because I protested other groups who didn’t pull their events. Equality California DID pull their event.

      There is language that I wish every organization hosting an event would get into their contracts that would allow groups to easily pull their events in the case of a labor dispute…

      This is very difficult, but ultimately the issues are really about the workers and those served by the Center, not those like me whose life doesn’t get impacted one way or another by these events. I know that the hotel workers, from my conversations with them, are deeply hurt by this debacle. I am sure the destitute HIV+ kids and others served by the Center are also deeply hurt. Let’s keep our hearts open.

      Thank you, Denise, my teacher!


      1. How do you know the Center was notified in April? Are you with the Center? Moreover the availability of 2 spaces as of “last week” is a red herring. Should the Center cancel the contract and lose $$, who eats that cost? Did the union offer to pick up that ?? I doubt it and what are the cost of these 2 other spaces??? You also generalize in the statement that there are lots of inconstencies…like what? I’m sorry but in these times of false info spread by the likes of Fox News,i find that i question statements like you have made without facts supporting it.MY heart IS open,but i see a difference with the union picketing for more benefits and a charity raising $$ for homeless runaway teens ,people with life threatening illnesses and seniors. Yes,i think there is a difference with helping others or helping yourself. My heart Is open.

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  4. What if the center were to make a donation to whatever fund is set up to run this boycott? Better yet, what if the center were to aid in the establishment of some type of fund to assist these underpaid workers whose struggle they claim to support ?

  5. Rabbi…It is evident you carefully reflected and considered both sides and have decided, in my opinion correctly. The unions have been with us throughout the struggle for equality. Thanks for sharing your inner struggle publicly. We can certainly learn from your example and courage.

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