This opinion article was originally published in the Orange County Register on January 25, 2019
By Reuben Franco and Kris Murray
A small faction of radical left-wing unionists has been working over the past decade to establish their political dominance in Orange County. They refuse to engage in constructive dialog and regularly put their own political interests ahead of others, including the hard-working men and women they represent. That faction is the leadership of Unite Here Local 11, led by the new chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County Ada Briceño.
On Thursday night, their latest stunt was to orchestrate a “protest” that included pre-meditated actions to secure the arrest of several dozen, bused in activists, to create as much chaos as possible on local city streets and disrupt the county’s largest annual convention, the National Association of Music Merchants at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The purpose of this stunt was not to advance the interests of their hard-working members — it was solely to advance personal and political agenda of Briceño and Unite Here Local 11.
NAMM is by far the largest convention in Orange County. More than 120,000 guests are expected to arrive in Orange County this week, bringing with them over $100 million in economic benefit to county taxpayers.
NAMM is also very generous to our local schools, donating tens of thousands each year in music equipment and countless hours of time teaching school children how to use this equipment. NAMM sets the bar for the type of convention host Orange County seeks in terms of community partnership and economic value.
Briceño and Unite Here Local 11 know this and therefore ceased all negotiations with two hoteliers last week, Anaheim Sheraton and Anaheim Hilton, in order to leverage NAMM for their own means. These hotels have worked in good faith as Unite Here Local 11-represented hotels and want to reach a quality agreement for their workers. Unite Here Local 11 chose to walk away to take advantage of the PR opportunity NAMM presented them.
NAMM leadership has a choice every year about where to host their annual convention. While Anaheim/Orange County is home to the largest convention center on the West Coast, it is only the 10th largest in the United States. Many other cities covet an opportunity to add a convention as lucrative and generous as NAMM.
Losing NAMM to another city would harm Orange County residents and local schools. It would also hurt Unite Here Local 11 hotel and restaurant workers. They are the single, greatest beneficiaries of the NAMM show. It is our hotel workers’ biggest week of the year for extra tips and hours at overtime rates if they want it.
So, while attacking NAMM clearly hurts hotel workers and damages the county’s local economy, the only benefit to this staged protest was to personally benefit the radical leadership of Unite Here Local 11.
This is far from the only time Unite Here leadership has used destructive tactics to make the union leadership “look good” while harming their workers.
Most recently, their campaign for the highest minimum wage in the nation — right here in Orange County — contributed to the cancellation of the proposed Disneyland four-diamond hotel. That hotel alone would have contributed hundreds of millions in new revenue to local cities and the county’s general fund; and in the decades ahead, that revenue would have been invested public safety and neighborhoods.
By refusing to engage in any meaningful dialog with their hoteliers or city leadership; by advancing the union leadership’s agenda over everyone else, including their own rank-and-file members; Unite Here Local 11’s so-called leaders have made it clear who they really care about.
One day, Unite Here Local 11 workers will hopefully realize their leadership’s political agenda is harming them and everyone else in our community. That day can’t come too soon.
Reuben Franco is CEO of the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Kris Murray is a former Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem and councilwoman.