Uncertainty surrounding the labor dispute involving nine Los Angeles hotels has resulted in cancelled room reservations, banquets, catering assignments and meetings.

The losses come even as officials of the workers' union, Unite HERE, have held off calling a strike or an official boycott, as their sister local in San Francisco has done.

Nonetheless, Unite HERE officials have had success pressuring 25 to 30 community groups, businesses, charities and other entities to cancel plans at the hotels. Other groups have followed suit without any public acknowledgement, union officials said.

"We're raising the costs for the employers for not settling," said Matt O'Malley, senior research analyst at Unite HERE Local 11 and an organizer of the effort. "If revenue streams are cut into and their margins are squeezed, our hope and expectation is that they are going to intervene and try to bring an end to this."

There's no way to know how much the hotels have lost nor does either side know how many organizations decided to switch venues before making a reservation at one of the nine hotels involved in the dispute.

But the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles lost $40,000 when a "Democratic-leaning" organization cancelled an all-day meeting and luncheon involving 600 people in August, according to Koleen Kareti, the hotel's general manager and president of the Los Angeles Hotel Employer's Council, which represents the nine hotels in the negotiations.

And the Asia-Pacific American Legal Center shifted its annual fundraising dinner, scheduled for Oct. 28, to the Empress Pavilion restaurant in Chinatown. The dinner had been organized at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites or Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. for the last 15 years.

The group's concern over picket lines cost the Bonaventure as much as $60,000.

"We certainly hope to go back to the Bonaventure as soon the labor dispute is settled," said Stewart Kwoh, executive director of the non-profit center. "A number of our supporters would not cross the picket lines and that would essentially ruin our dinner."

Unite HERE expects to complete a petition drive it began Oct. 21 to gather signatures from at least two-thirds of its 2,800 members to call an official boycott of the hotels. If the two-thirds threshold were reached, the boycott would gain the sanction of the AFL-CIO, bringing the local dispute national, according to Hilda Delgado, spokeswoman for the L.A. County Federation of Labor, which already has sanctioned a strike.


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