LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--On January 30, around 100 workers, LGBTQ activists, and community allies protested at the Freehand hotel after an incident in which a hotel security guard allegedly made offensive remarks referencing the Westboro Baptist Church to a group of clergy and LGBTQ activists advocating on behalf of hotel workers.
On January 23, a group of clergy and workers’ rights advocates entered the Freehand hotel to speak to management about allegations that the company had attempted to threaten and intimidate workers organizing to improve their working conditions. After management refused to meet with the group and demanded they leave the hotel, the head of security remarked that they reminded him of the Westboro Baptist Church. Witnesses say the security guard appeared to direct this statement to a member of the delegation who had earlier identified himself as a gay rights activist.
The remarks of the security guard sparked outrage from members of the community and UNITE HERE Local 11, who assembled the protest on January 30. UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers union, has a large percentage of LGBTQ members and has been engaged in multiple campaigns against homophobia in the tourism industry.
Workers at the Freehand hotel have sought to exercise their legal rights in response to poor working conditions, low wages, and possible wage theft. According to workers, after they began their efforts, hotel security threatened and sought to intimidate them. An unfair labor practice charge has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that hotel security and management engaged in unlawful surveillance of their organizing activity, in violation of federal labor law.
Located in downtown Los Angeles, the Freehand hotel is managed by the Sydell Group and marketed towards a “new generation of urban travelers.” The Sydell Group also manages the Nomad hotel and the LINE hotel in Koreatown, where workers have voted to authorize a strike.
The Westboro Baptist Church is a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center known for its rabidly anti-LGBTQ stances and public protests at soldiers’ funerals.