CARLSBAD — Workers at five Carlsbad hotels can expect their jobs to be secure despite furloughs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During its Nov. 17 meeting, the Carlsbad City Council approved 3-1 to draft a Right to Recall emergency ordinance requiring hotels with more than 200 rooms to hire back those employees who were furloughed after March 4. No other industries or employees working in the city are included in the proposed ordinance.
The item was brought forward by Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel after the City of San Diego passed a nearly identical ordinance in September. San Diego’s ordinance, which is set to expire next month, is also being challenged in court.
Bhat-Patel said it is an effort to protect furloughed employees with seniority, specifically women of color, who may be fired in the wake of the pandemic or rehired at lower wages and fewer benefits.
“Doing something for them to have a sense of security,” Bhat-Patel said. “Most hotels may be playing by the rules, but this is a safeguard. The sense of urgency is we want to make sure folks don’t continue to lose their jobs.”
The language of the ordinance, though, was crafted by a number of labor unions, according to a review of those ordinances and language presented in the Carlsbad staff report citing Molly Chase, chief of staff for San Diego Councilman Chris Ward.
Bhat-Patel, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher and Councilwoman-elect Teresa Acosta, who will be sworn in on Dec. 8 to represent District 4, all participated in protests against the Omni La Costa Resort & Spa earlier this year. The rallying cry was “one job should be enough” and gaining a “fair contract,” according to a tweet on Feb. 5 from Unite Here Local 30.
Clearly, a little cold weather is not going to stop the workers at the @OmniLaCosta from rallying for a #FairContractNow #AtTheOmni! #OmniFight2020 #OneJobShouldBeEnough! We’ll be back!! Thanks @Lemmonsdtrades, @CoriforCarlsbad & @The_Tommy_Hough for coming out to support! pic.twitter.com/MpNYRiWcgw
— UNITE HERE Local 30 (@UNITEHERE30) February 5, 2020
Bhat-Patel and Schumacher did not disclose their participation in the rally during the meeting. Acosta, Schumacher and Bhat-Patel combined have received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from labor unions.
According to the ordinance, it protects any employee who worked a minimum of two hours per week for at least six months in the 12 months preceding March 4, when the State of Emergency was declared. It also protects seasonal employees, according to the staff report, but does not cover a manager, supervisor or confidential employee.
Additionally, the employer must contact those furloughed in writing and by email and text message, if the employer possesses such information. The employee has three days to accept or decline the position.
Also, should an employer decline to rehire on grounds of lack of qualifications, written notice must be provided within 30 days; keep all records of the employee for at least three years; and if there is a change in ownership, the new operators must follow the same regulations.
An employee has a right to sue if any of the conditions are violated. The ordinance would be in effect for 18 months after it adopted unless the council extends the date.
“These hotels have contributed untold millions of dollars to Carlsbad and to our quality of life,” said Bret Schanzenbach, CEO and president of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce. “How this might not be considered kicking them when they’re down? We’re passing something for folks who don’t live in Carlsbad, but against businesses operating in Carlsbad.”
Six individuals, all furloughed from Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, spoke in favor of the ordinance. They cited the need for security and concerns over the resort beginning to terminate employees as the pandemic continues. They said it gives the hotel an excuse to fire the higher-paid employees and replace them with cheaper labor.
Only five hotels — Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, Aviara Park Hyatt, Legoland, Cape Rey Hilton and Westin (Marriott) — in the city have 200 or more rooms. A statewide bill for a Right to Recall was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this year.
Mayor Matt Hall, who voted no, said he wanted more time to flesh out the details of the proposal to include other stakeholders, such as hoteliers. Over the years, Hall has received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from hoteliers, including Bill Canepa, owner of Cape Rey Hilton, one of the hotels impacted by the ordinance.
Hall said he was uneasy having the city dictate to businesses their employment practices.
Hall also voiced concerns over the urgency of the ordinance, noting it is not likely hotels will have the ability to fully open for several months.
“What is concerning to me is I heard just one hotel,” Hall said. “I don’t know if this is site-specific or industry-wide. “The hotel industry is 20%-25% stress mode and (many are) in foreclosure. I don’t think it passes the fairness test.”
Councilman Keith Blackburn also stressed he would only support the measure if all stakeholders were allowed to meet with the subcommittee consisting of himself and Bhat-Patel. Bhat-Patel initially said it would be too cumbersome to include all the stakeholders in the discussions as city staff must ramp up the draft by Dec. 8.
She said she would include their thoughts and concerns during the item’s public comment portion of the Dec. 8 meeting and be sure to incorporate those thoughts into the final draft. Blackburn pushed for those inclusions and the council directed City Manager Scott Chadwick to include all stakeholders’ input.