Unite Here Local 11 is a labor union that represents hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona. The hotel industry employs most workers represented by Local 11, but the union also represents workers in the gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, laundry, and airport industries.
Local 11 is a part of the national Unite Here which is a member of the largest labor federation in the country, the AFL-CIO.  Its membership totaled 27,931 as of 2018, making it Unite Here’s second-largest local union after the Culinary Local 226 of Las Vegas.   In the mid-2000s, Unite Here had a failed alliance with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its rival federation Change to Win.
The union has gained criticism over the tactics it has used in its political advocacy and to pressure employers into labor agreements. It has picketed hotels, held street protests to stop traffic, and has used loud bullhorns in the early morning.  Even within Unite Here, which is infamous for its aggressive campaigns against large corporations, Local 11 is notorious in its own right. The Nation, a left-of-center magazine, titled it one of the union’s “most militant and successful locals.” 
In addition to representing its members directly, Local 11 uses its resources to support the causes of its often left-of-center political allies. However, Local 11 has also been criticized for advocating in favor of policies that go against the interests of its members and their communities.  Most notably, the union fought against a building height ordinance and campaigned for a minimum wage increase that excluded its own members.  
Unite Here Local 11 officially organized in 2004.  The new organization continued existing efforts to organize workers in the region that were occurring before its national office restructured during the ill-fated Unite/HERE merger that same year. 
Unite Here Local 11 is the successor to Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) Local 11, which predated the national union merger.  The local can trace its roots back to when the Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union became active in Southern California in the 1930s. 
Maria Elena Durazo, since 2018 a Democratic member of the California State Senate, became a leader within the local when unrest with existing leadership started in the 1980s. She pushed for the union to respond more to immigrant workers which helped lead to several successful organizing campaigns.  She was eventually elected the president of the union in 1989.
Local 11 started working alongside other unions to revive the local labor movement starting in the 1990s. The Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees (UNITE), Justice for Janitors, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), and the County Federation of Labor were also at the forefront of those efforts. 
HERE International later merged with UNITE to form Unite Here in July 2004.  Local 11 continued its efforts to organize hotel and restaurant worker in the region under the new banner. Unite Here Local 11 has since represented hotel, restaurant, airport, sports arena, and convention center workers.
Local 11 also expanded its reach when merging with other local unions in the region starting in the early 2000s. Unite Here Local 814 in Santa Monica became part of the local in 2002 while Local 681 in Orange County and Long Beach did the same in 2008. 
Local 814 President Thomas Walsh became president of Local 11 shortly after the merger.  He would later be replaced with current presidents Ada Briceno, Susan Minato, and Kurt Petersen. Local 11 is now one of the largest local unions and includes members throughout Southern California. 
End of the National Merger
In 2009, then-Unite Here national president Bruce Raynor abruptly withdrew most of the ex-UNITE local unions from the merged Unite Here and aligned them with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) under the Workers United banner.  Former HERE unions, among them Local 11, remained in the rump Unite Here.
Unite Here national president John Wilhelm announced in September 2009 during a convention that the union would rejoin the AFL-CIO labor union federation. The move put Local 11 under the banner of Unite Here and the AFL-CIO. 
Organizing and Representation
Unite Here Local 11 is organized as a local labor union that engages in collective bargaining for service workers primarily in hospitality industries. Like most unions, it is mostly funded by dues paying members. Membership dues range from a minimum of $28.00 to a maximum of $66.00 a month. 
Unite Here Local 11, like many unions, tends to support left-wing and liberal causes. The national union endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the election of 2016.  Local 11 has supported a variety of causes including higher minimum wages, expanded immigration and public services for immigrants, and more regulated working conditions. 
Local 11 has gained national attention for its successful and often controversial political advocacy. The Nation, a left-wing magazine, referred to the union as one of the “most militant and successful locals” in the country. 
Local 11 goes to great lengths to expand unionized hotel projects—and, by extension, the number of unionized hotel workers–in places like Santa Monica, California. In order to get one such project, The Plaza at Santa Monica, approved, Local 11 organized demonstrations to protest the city’s building height ordinances. The city’s planning commission found that 60 percent of residents opposed the project. In response, the union paid protesters to join picket lines and wake up guests every morning with bull horns, “salted” the workforce with union members, and tangled the hotel in years of litigation for matters unrelated to labor. 
When the city council examined Santa Monica’s noise ordinance, the union sent a letter to the mayor saying that preventing bullhorns and early-morning rallies “inhibits the rights of Santa Monicans to hear diverse points of view.” A writer in the Orange County Register referred to Local 11 as “the region’s most divisive union.” 
Local 11 opposes new hotel projects if the union or its political allies do not stand to benefit. In 2017, Local 11 paid to advertise throughout the city of Los Angeles in protest of a hotel project because the president of the construction company, Bill Wilhelm, belonged to Legatus, a Catholic business networking group. Wilhelm severed ties with Legatis, but Local 11 demanded a list of concessions, many of them unrelated to the union. The construction company accused the union of engaging in a smear campaign after negotiations with the hotel turned sour. Councilor Mitch O’Farrell (D), who represents the area, said, “As a gay man, I am extremely disappointed that Unite Here has sought to drive a wedge within my community in this way.” 
Local 11 gained criticism for advocating for a minimum wage ordinance while also seeking an exemption in 2014. The Los Angeles City Council voted to increase the minimum wage for large hotels to $15.37. Local 11 was a major advocate of the ordinance but it was later found out that the union also included an exemption for its own members. 
Former Local 11 President Thomas Walsh said at the time he didn’t see it as an incentive but that he hoped it would cause hotels to be less resistant to unionization.  Such exemptions have been pushed by unions elsewhere to force employers to reach union agreements. 
Local 11 is best known as the representative for a large share of Disneyland’s staff. During a contract dispute in 2010, union workers, reportedly dressed as Disney characters, passed out fliers and balloons accusing the company of harboring pedophiles. The fliers said dozens of sex offenses were committed every year inside the park, and warned tourists to “Keep Your Children Close!” A spokesman for the Anaheim Police Department said the department was unaware of any such incidences.  Earlier that same year, Local 11 announced that ten of its members had started hunger strikes to bring attention to the contract dispute. 
In order to put additional pressure on companies during negotiations, Local 11 frequently protests on behalf of other political causes.
When a luxury hotel owned by the Sultan of Brunei fired its union workers, Local 11 brought attention to Brunei’s stance on homosexuality. Ellen DeGeneres and a number of other celebrities promised to boycott all of the hotels connected to the Sultan, and the result was a PR disaster for the company. 
When Iman Boudlal, a Moroccan-American woman, sued Disney for her right to wear a hijab at work, a Disney representative said “Unfortunately, this is yet another attempt by Local 11 to distort the facts and distract from the real issue that their members have been without a contract for two and a half years.” 
In 2015, LGBT activists supported a Local 11 boycott against the Manchester Hyatt after it was discovered that the owner, Doug Manchester, had donated money to help put Proposition 8 on the California ballot. The general manager of the Hyatt Regency described the union’s attacks in a letter as were “baseless,” and intended to intimidate employees by creating a “contentious bargaining environment.”  
During the 2018 midterm elections, Betty Guardado, vice president of Local 11, spoke at a rally outside the Arizona state capitol protesting immigration policy. “This state is going to turn blue!” Guardado told the crowd. 
Despite a longstanding alliance between Local 11 and the LGBT community, the union picketed the LA Gay and Lesbian Center’s 39th Anniversary Gala while the union was in negotiations with the Hyatt Regency. 
Local 11 supported several groups financially in 2018. Anaheim Resort Workers for A Living Wage received a total of $443,900 by the union that year. Arno Petition Consultants received a total of $99,227. Citizens For a Better W. Hollywood was able to get $145,950. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor also got $17,500. No On J&K received $75,000. The South Bay Women’s Project received $531,149.
Goodwin Simon Strategic Research was also paid for its polling services $53,950 that same year. Kaufman Legal Group was paid in legal fees $165,140. Olson Hagel & Fishburn LLP was also paid in legal fees $19,848. 
Unite Here Local 11 has three co-presidents and various other leadership positions. Ada Briceno, Susan Minato, and Kurt Petersen currently serve as presidents of the union. Manuel Roman and Martha Santamaria both work as executive vice presidents. Martin Lopez serves as the director of the union. 
Briceno started as a hotel worker who moved her way up through Unite Here Local 681. She eventually became the first Latina president of her local. She became part of Local 11 when her union merged with it in 2008. She has been an advocate of various union causes like the ordinance requiring a $15.37 an hour minimum wage for large hotels in Los Angeles in 2014. 
Minato first became a part of the labor movement as a lawyer representing the Utility Workers Union. She would eventually leave her legal career and become a union organizer in 1993. She was a key organizer when Local 11 rebuilt itself in the early 2000s. 
Petersen started in the labor movement as an organizer by joining the United Farm Workers of Washington State in 1992. He became part of the national Unite Here as an organizing director started in 1995. He would later become part of Local 11.