In her September 16th op-ed, Mayor Lauren Meister defends the vote she and Councilmember John Duran took on March 21, 2016 against raising the citywide minimum wage to $15 an hour. UNITE HERE Local 11 PAC sent information to voters about her vote. Larry Block, in his op-ed “The Race Is On,” writes that UNITE HERE Local 11’s argument of was “not an honest message” because “Duran was not on the City Council at the time of the vote.”
Alan Strasburg, another WEHOville writer, went further, calling the claim “an outright lie”. These are outrageous allegations given that both the link in our text message and the footnote on the mailer both cite WEHOville’s own reporting showing that Meister and Duran did in fact vote against the $15 minimum wage.
The biggest problem for Block and Strasburg is that Mayor Meister herself admits she and Duran took this vote. Let’s look at the history. By 2016, the City of Los Angeles was already on its way to a $15 minimum wage, which was the result of the great risks low wage service workers had taken in the “Fight For $15” movement. Many other neighboring cities were joining in on this common-sense legislation, and West Hollywood had a chance to support the movement at that important juncture. Instead Meister and Duran undercut the Los Angeles effort.
“Why would Council risk hurting our small businesses when we could offer a compromise to accommodate both workers and businesses as well as a commitment to continue the conversation?”
Mayor Meister acknowledges the truth of our claim: “John Duran & Lauren Meister Voted AGAINST raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.” In 2016 Meister and Duran cast two of the three votes that prevented West Hollywood from following the example of Los Angeles. Lindsey Horvath and John Heilman voted in favor of the $15 minimum wage. If either Meister or Duran had voted the other way, the $15 wage could have prevailed. Their votes were decisive.
As a result of Meister’s vote, West Hollywood hospitality workers made less than workers across the street in Los Angeles. Her “compromise” hurt West Hollywood’s lowest paid service workers, who make up the backbone of the city’s economy. The “commitment to continue the conversation” only happened when new leadership was elected to the Council that championed raising the minimum wage.
Meister and Duran’s votes were so bad that the Miracle Mile Democratic Club admonished both of them. The club circulated a petition that said:
“The Miracle Mile Democratic Club is deeply disappointed in the actions of Mayor Pro Tem Lauren Meister … and Councilmember John Duran in opposing this essential component of building a more equal society.”
Meister points out that our Union once supported her, and that is true. There was a time when both John Duran and Lauren Meister represented change, but now they have become so beholden to the Chamber of Commerce that their positions are out of touch with working people and renters in West Hollywood. They both opposed the Hotel Worker Protection law, which protects housekeepers from sexual assault and ensures fair pay for their work.
Meister maligns unions, calling them “special interests”, but is happy to receive an endorsement from an organization led by wealthy corporations. Union members are not a special interest. We put pooled our time hard-earned money to have a voice in our jobs and our political system. Hundreds of our members took leaves from their jobs to save our Democracy from Donald Trump by working for months in the desert heat of swing states like Arizona in 2020, and we are doing it again now for the midterms. The political efforts of housekeepers, cooks, and servers should be celebrated in West Hollywood.
We have chosen to support Chelsea Byers, Robert Oliver and Zekiah Wright for City Council because they do celebrate the voices of hospitality workers. When it comes to working families, Duran and Meister just don’t act like Democrats, and that’s why we are voting for new leadership.