‘Jay-Z needs to figure out which side he’s on’: Chateau Marmont workers celebrate the star’s Oscars | Los Angeles

nNestled at the foot of the mansion-studded hills, north of Los Angeles’ legendary Sunset Boulevard, the seven-story Chateau Marmont has been a mainstay of Hollywood socialites for nearly a century — including, in recent years, Jay-Z’s place And Beyoncé’s very exclusive post-Oscars bash.

But the famed Hollywood stadium has become a rallying point for a growing labor movement, and on Sunday dozens of Chateau Marmont workers plan to protest outside the Oscars, alleging long-standing rights abuses and employer discrimination. this means Carter And the star-studded guest list will have to choose if you want to cross the picket line to get in.

“We hope our presence educates people that they need to go elsewhere,” said Kurt Petersen, co-chair of Unite Here Local 11, a union that supports non-union service employees. “This hotel should no longer be seen as a favorite in Hollywood until they change the way they treat workers. We are at a moment in our history where people need to decide which side they are on.

“This is the question everyone should ask themselves, including Jay Z. “

A pseudo-European castle, Chateau Marmont has long been a favorite haven of some of America’s most famous cultural figures. Built in 1929 by a Los Angeles attorney, the mansion was originally intended as a first-class apartment building for wealthy New Yorkers moving west. The mansion was converted into a hotel after the Great Depression, and an air of exclusivity has developed ever since. now.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé's Oscar party guests will meet with protesters this year.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s Oscar party guests will meet with protesters this year. Photo: Jeffrey Meyer/WireImage

Superstars from F Scott Fitzgerald to Sofia Coppola have produced work on the premises, and the hotel has been featured in countless music, film, and literature, including references in the songs of the Grateful Dead, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey. Since 1990, the hotel has been run by Andre Palaz, a high-profile and famous hotelier in his own right, known for his romantic relationships with listeners. All of these star associations have only added to the hotel’s number one reputation over the years.

All this is changing now. Since last February, Chateau staff – some of whom have worked at the hotel for decades – have led a fierce boycott that has drawn the support of Hollywood dignitaries including Jane Fonda, Spike Lee, Issa Ray, Gabrielle Union, Samara Wiley, Robin Theady, Ashley Nicole Black and Alfonso Cuarón. Director Aaron Sorkin Canceled shoot at the Hotel Being the Ricardos; Paramount Plus series also offer Withdrawn From photography there.

It is a dramatic fall from grace of hotel management. In an emailed statement, a union spokesperson was accused of trying to “damage Chateau Marmont” by organizing protests using “paid agitators…most of whom are not former employees and have no connections to the non-union Chateau Marmont”.

But the movement has been a vital boost to the workers, whose discontent runs deep in what they describe as the toxic environment.

Bias seems to be rife in the hotel. Dark-skinned employees said they were subjected to racist remarks and were promoted. according to Investigation By The Hollywood Reporter, Chateau’s managing director, Amanda Grandinette, referred to one employee as “Blackie,” and told another that they should reply to her by saying “Yes, Amasa,” apparently in reference to the slave master. In a lawsuit filed against the palace last year, April Blackwell, a black woman who worked at the palace, said Grandinette fired her after she complained about a pattern of racial abuse by guests.

Grandinetti did not respond to Guardian requests for comment, but she did before I acknowledge The Hollywood Reporter said she “could have defended her more quickly.” [her] a team”.

Chateau employees said they were repeatedly sexually harassed. The workers painted a grim picture of Palaz, claiming that the owner would drink on the premises and pick up the workers — an accusation Palaz denied. The workers alleged that management also failed to take any action when guests touched female employees without their consent.

A hotel spokesperson said, “All of these baseless claims have not been proven for one simple reason: They were made into lawsuits purchased and paid for by Unite Here Local 11 as part of their targeted effort to unite Chateau Marmont. Contrary to the false claims in these filings, A phantom that has already been rejected and backed by unions, Chateau Marmont has a long and well-documented history of diversity and inclusion among our staff and guests.”

Things came to a head in 2020. Just before the pandemic broke out, Chateau employees called Unite Here to discuss how they could push for better working conditions, said Petersen, the union organizer. That effort collapsed in mid-March, as the coronavirus began to spread, when Chateau’s administration suddenly laid off the vast majority of its employees — 248 people — without termination or extended health insurance.

One of those workers was Alejandro Roldan, a 35-year-old housekeeper, who told the Guardian he was earning just over $14 an hour at the Chateau before he lost his job, and with it his health insurance. Then he contracted Covid – and decided not to visit the expensive hospital. But then his symptoms became severe. “I was afraid to die,” he said.

Alejandro Roldan in front of Chateau Marmont.
Alejandro Roldan in front of Chateau Marmont. Photograph: Damon Casares/The Guardian

It was a blow to the head in a workplace accident he had just over a month before his layoff, when he was preparing for Jay-Z’s last Oscar party and a glass coffee table shattered, sending splinters in his eyes. He fully recovered, but was hit with more hospital bills, which his employer hadn’t helped cover. “I was frustrated,” he said. “I was like, ‘I’m losing sight of someone who doesn’t even support us.'”

In July of that year, Palaz announce He was reorganizing the property as a members-only club, and wouldn’t reassign most employees.

“It was the best union-busting campaign ever,” Petersen said. “Just fire all the workers and make sure none of those who defended their rights go back to work.” When Roldan and the other workers began to protest, members of the palace administration responded by showing up for filming and warning, “We’re watching you.”

Fired workers and their supporters protest outside Chateau Marmont on April 23, 2021.
Fired workers and their supporters protest outside Chateau Marmont on April 23, 2021.
Photo: Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/Rex/Shutterstock

But the Chateau crew kept pressing. In May 2020, Hotel Workers and Unite Here 11 won an award Passage of the “Right of Subpoena” decree In Los Angeles, employers are required to hire workers laid off during the pandemic rather than replace them with new ones. A similar law was passed statewide the following year.

In January 2022, the National Labor Relations Board found that Château Marmont had monitored illegally laid-off workers at protests, in order to disrupt their efforts to organize. The Federal Labor Council negotiated a settlement With Marmont, which demands that the hotel respect the rights of labor workers and stop its interference in the organization of workers.

Petersen sees the victories as part of a broader strengthening of labor solidarity among Hollywood’s entertainment and hospitality industries in the wake of the pandemic. “We would not have had this province without the solidarity of the representatives, or of the Sag-Aftra, of Iatse [International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees]Both of our industry suffered huge losses during this time in terms of business. Those unions and those members have stood by us,” of the Teamsters, who were exceptional, “he told the Guardian.

But the demands of the chateau workers are still far from being met. They want their jobs back, and they want clear commitments from the Chateau Marmont management that it will reform the workplace environment. Roldan said they wanted to form a union, so they would no longer have to feel “alone”.

A Château Marmont spokesman said the hotel had employed more than 50 former employees under the new law, and said union protests had “slowed the process of re-employment of former workers”. But Petersen believes the hotel is “too slow to reopen on purpose to tire people out and get ready to go back”.

This Sunday, Roldan will be among the workers camping at Jay-Z’s party. The former housekeeper is still thinking about the injury he sustained at the rapper’s latest event.

“I just want Jay-Z to support us,” Roldan said. “Every time they go to the hotel we serve them and get what they want and we are there for them. So they must be there for us.”

Representatives for Jay-Z’s subsidiary Roc Nation did not respond to Guardian’s request for comment.

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