A week before a new minimum wage for Long Beach hotels goes into effect, a large, marina-area hotel has told all of its employees — 75 people — that they will be laid off, according to union representatives.
But in a confrontation with union activists at the hotel Friday, a man who identified himself as the manager of the 175-room Best Western Golden Sails denied that the ballot measure triggered the cuts, saying bad economic conditions were to blame.
When he walked away, the protesters followed him through the hotel chanting "Si se puede."
In a letter to employees posted at the hotel Monday, the Best Western said it planned to downsize and reopen under new management. While the letter said some employees would eventually be rehired, it said all employees would be without a job effective Saturday and eligible for $1,000 severance packages.
"All employees will be considered terminated after their last shift of duty on or before December 15, 2012," reads the letter signed by Matthew Daniel, general manager.
Representatives from Best Western International declined to comment, saying each Best Western hotel is independently owned and operated.
The Best Western is at least the second hotel to scale back following voter approval of a local measure requiring hotels with 100 or more rooms to pay their employees at least $13 an hour.
Earlier this month, the 140-room Hotel Current told employees it was scaling back to 99 rooms, putting it just beneath the threshold for the mandated wage increase. That change is not expected to result in job losses, union leaders said. Hotel managers could not be reached for comment.
Before election day, Long Beach business leaders warned of job losses if the union-backed living-wage push succeeded. But Measure N, the ordinance raising hotel workers' wages, won the approval of 64% of voters anyway.
Standing in front of the Best Western during a news conference Friday afternoon, Leigh Shelton, spokeswoman for Unite Here 11, which represents hotel and food workers, called the hotel the "worst, horrific example" of hotels targeting workers in reaction to the ballot measure.
The living wage measure was the third in the nation to require a minimum wage for hotel workers. The Bay Area city of Emeryville has one such measure, and an L.A. city ordinance covers hotels serving Los Angeles International Airport.
Rosa Rivera, a 20-year worker at the Best Western, said she clocked in at 7:30 a.m. and had cleaned six rooms when she was approached by supervisors and the manager. They told her that business was poor, that the hotel had been sold and that they would have to let her go. She said most of the other longtime employees were also being let go. Those remaining only have a few months' tenure, she said.
They gave her a $1,000 severance check and her paycheck, and allowed her to pick up her personal items.
Outside of the hotel, she cried.
"I'm mad," she said. "I've devoted my life to the advancement of this hotel, to make sure it passed health inspections," she said. "I've even stayed here until 10 p.m. and sometimes I'd come in earlier to help, and to let me go just like that. It's not fair."