UNITE-HERE Local 11 Orchestrates Massive Disruption of Anaheim’s Largest Annual Convention

By:OC Independent Editorial

Earlier this month, radical hotel workers union UNITE-HERE Local 11 tweeted it had no beef with the thousands of people coming to the Anaheim Convention Center for the annual National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show – the single largest convention that comes to Anaheim. Their dispute, the union claimed, was not with NAMM but with the Sheraton Park Hotel in Anaheim.

NAMM attendees could be forgiven for questioning Local 11’s sincerity after the union engaged in a massive “direct action” on the first day of the NAMM show: shutting down the Harbor and Katella intersection, snarling traffic, disturbing the peace, obstructing access to the convention center and adjacent hotels – and generally making life miserable for people trying to go about their business and injecting millions into Anaheim’s economy in the process.

Local 11 members illegally took to Katella Avenue and forced the closure of Katella between Harbor Boulevard and Disneyland Drive.

According to various sources, impacted hotels had to comp hotel nights for guests, distribute free restaurant voucher and take other measures to try and mitigate the disruption caused by UNITE-HERE.

Area hoteliers were reportedly livid that the city provided them with no detailed information about the planned UNITE-HERE protest and allowed the union to change it protest route mid-demonstration, resulting in the Katella/Harbor intersection being shut-down and Disney Way being closed off at Harbor.

UNITE-HERE Local 11 protestors shut-down heart of Resort District. Local 11 Co-President Ada Briceno on the right giving orders.

The resulting chaos prevented guests from being able to return to their hotels after leaving Disneyland, dinner with the family, etc. – not to mention motorists and workers trying to get home.

According to witnesses, UNITE-HERE protestors appeared to enjoy the disruption they were causing to people and show attendees who were simply minding their own business to rude comments and intimidating behavior.

The widely shared impression of observers was that the city had ceded control of the streets to UNITE-HERE protestors.

Year in and year out, NAMM is the Anaheim Convention Center’s largest show. This year’s NAMM drew 75,000 attendees from around the globe, who booked nearly 25,000 room nights. Each of those room nights throws off TOT revenue for city coffers. The economic impact of the 2024 NAMM Show was estimated to be $120 million.

Not that UNITE-HERE Local 11 cares – nor do it’s political allies.

This is the second time in the past five years that UNITE-HERE Local 11 has chosen to completely disrupt the NAMM Show for its own narrow purposes.

In 2019, Local 11 clogged the streets next Convention Center on NAMM’s opening show, and orchestrated the closure of the busy Harbor and Katella intersection, shutting down traffic for hours. 20 people – including Local 11 boss Ada Briceno and then-Anaheim Councilman Jose F. Moreno – were arrested. Besides disrupting the NAMM show, the Local 11 action was a massive drain on Anaheim police resources.

READ: Councilman Jose Moreno Arrested For Joining Illegal Union Protest Action

A few days prior to Local 11’s planned disruption of the January 2019 NAMM Show, NAMM President Joe Lamond appeared before the city council to express his concern that UNITE-HERE was going to disrupt their convention as a part of the union’s disputes with the Anaheim Hilton and the Sheraton Park Hotel. Lamond not-so-subtly reminded the council that NAMM can go elsewhere and take its tens of million in positive economic impacts with it.

“We’ve been [in Anaheim] for a long time,” said Lamond. “I really do have to make some tough decisions on the future of the NAMM Show, where we go – these 115,000 people. Our economic impact is estimated at well over $100 million next week. That’s a lot of jobs, that’s a lot of support for the city.”

The current head of NAMM is reportedly livid over Local 11’s deliberate massive disruption of the show, and over the inability of the city to preserve order and simply keep the streets open.

The NAMM Show is booked at the Anaheim Convention Center through 2026. According industry sources, UNITE-HERE’S continuing practice of disrupting NAMM – and potentially other key Convention Center shows – as a blunt trauma negotiating tactic in their disputes with unionized Resort hotels heightens the possibility NAMM will depart for a less turbulent convention destination.

The events of last week give lie to UNITE-HERE’s earlier assurance their “action” was not aimed at NAMM. Clearly it was.

For nearly 30 years, UNITE-HERE has failed to unionize a single Anaheim hotel. The hotel workers who come to Anaheim City Council meetings to complain about their wages and working conditions are invariably Local 11 members who work at Local 11-organized hotels. Under the leadership of co-President Ada Briceno, Local 11 membership remains far below pre-pandemic shutdown levels – even as membership numbers in the other UNITE-HERE locals in California have bounced back and even exceeded pre-pandemic levels. While Local 11 members were losing their jobs during the pandemic shutdown, Briceno and other Local 11 leaders were asking them to keep paying dues while giving themselves raises.

Briceno’s goal in November of 2024: elect a pro-UNITE-HERE Local 11 majority to the Anaheim City Council. The union is already half-way there, and needs to pick up two more seats. If that happens, the economically ruinous Measure A – which was overwhelmingly rejected last November by Anaheim voters – could be imposed on the city’s hotels and event centers by city council action. That measure contained an escape clause whereby a hotel or event center could avoid the onerous wage hikes and work rules by allowing UNITE-HERE to unionize their business.

UNITE-HERE needs a council majority because she wants to use the club of City Hall to the power to boost its failure to organize any Anaheim hotels. That is the political reality underlying UNITE-HERE sabotaging NAMM’s opening day and its current attempt to recall Councilmember Natalie Rubalcava.


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