The real scandal at the Oscars was when celebrities crossed a picket line
As the world reacted to movie star Will Smith’s altercation with comedian Chris Rock at the 94and Sunday night’s Oscars another Oscar controversy was brewing – one centered on the struggles of hospitality workers at a hotel that caters to Hollywood elites.
After the awards show in Los Angeles, rapper Jay-Z hosted a party at the Chateau Marmont Hotel, where UNITE HERE Local employees 11 have been carrying out a boycott since February 2021 amid allegations of widespread sexual misconduct, racial discrimination and union busting. The billionaire hip-hop mogul refused to heed union demands to honor the boycott by moving his party to another venue.
“We were hoping Jay-Z would do the right thing and rock his party. He had every opportunity to do so. But he made it clear which side he was on. He was not on the side of workers, black women, justice for workers,” said Kurt Petersen, UNITE HERE Local 11 co-chairman.
About 75 hotel employees and community allies held a animated picket in front of the Château during the first two hours of the party on Sunday evening, from 11pm to 1am, surrounded by a heavy presence of private security and police.
Based on various reports, some celebrities who attended the party despite the highly publicized union boycott included: Rosario Dawson, Janelle Monáe, Zoë Kravitz, Timothée Chalamet, Michael B. Jordan, Rihanna, Emily Ratajkowski, Saweetie, Questlove, Daniel Kaluuya, Tiffany Haddish, Tyler Perry, Mindy Kaling, Jon Hamm, DJ Khaled and Kim Kardashian. In these times reached out to their respective publicists for comment, but none responded. (This piece will be updated with any answers that come in.)
“It is disappointing and frustrating that Jay-Z, Michael B. Jordan, Rihanna, DJ Khaled, Zoë Kravitz and other Hollywood elites have chosen to prioritize their partying and fame over real people,” said Keisha Banks, former event waitress at Chateau Marmont. . “It may only be a part for them, but it is people’s livelihood.
Many celebrities have suffered intense critical to social media for crossing the picket line and being “scabs,” including Dawson and Ratajkowski, whose progressive politics and support for Democratic Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are well known.
Dawson tweeted Tuesday that she arrived at the hotel after the picketers returned home and so “did not cross a picket line. She added that it was “disturbing to learn about the working conditions. I stand with the protesters & won’t come back until it’s resolved. #unionrights.
“We commend Rosario Dawson for stepping in and pledging not to back down. We think it will be the first of many,” Petersen said. In these times. “I have to believe that each of them knows they did something wrong.
Several celebrities endorsed the castle boycott and stayed away from the party, including Gabrielle Union, Issa Rae, Jane Fonda, Tom Morello, Adam McKay, Samira Wiley, Spike Lee, Robin Thede, Alfonso Cuarón, Amanda Seyfried, Steven Van Zandt, Ashley Nicole Black, Sarah Silverman, Martin Sheen and Edie Falco.
While filming his Oscar-nominated film Be the Ricardos Last April, writer-director Aaron Sorkin canceled a planned filming at the Château at the last minute after learning of the boycott. “Aaron Sorkin, cast and crew Be the Ricardos stand in solidarity with the workforce at Château Marmont,” producer Todd Black said at the time.
“The story needs to be told about those who didn’t get in, those who supported us,” Peterson explained, noting that many cars arriving at the Oscar party turned around and drove off after encountering the picket line.
He added that several Hollywood unions have also lent their support, including the Teamsters, Writers Guild of America-West, SAG-AFTRA and IATSE. SAG-AFTRA did not respond to a request for comment on its high-profile members who attended Jay-Z’s party at the Castle.
The hotel has long had the reputation of being a “playground” for its wealthy guests, where wild parties involving drug and alcohol abuse are almost encouraged by the slogan: “Always a haven of peace. The owner of the Château, the famous hotelier André Balazs, has been accused of ill-treatment and sexual harassment by several employees, which he denies. Black and Latino workers also accused managers of racial discrimination and slurs.
Hotel management calls these allegations “without merit” and “not proven.
In the beginning 2020Château workers started organizing with UNITE HERE Local 11 hoping to form a union to change the hotel culture for the better. But in March of that year, Balazs ended all 248 workers and cut their health insurance, citing the Covid-19 pandemic as justification. Four months later, he announced he was turning the Chateau into a members-only club and would not be rehiring the workforce.
Thanks to union advocacy, in May 2020Los Angeles passed a law providing that hospitality workers who were laid off during the pandemic on “right to return” to their jobs – including Chateau employees. California passed a similar statewide law in April. 2021. But in an apparent attempt to stop the organizing drive in its tracks, Balazs and his management team were slow to rehire the workers, bringing back only about 50 of them so far.
“Their strategy is to wait for the workers to come out. They deliberately kept the hotel occupied to 20 percent, they basically shut down food and drink,” Petersen explained. “They try to wait longer than their workers and hope that the workers will find other jobs, leave the country or die in some cases.
The National Labor Relations Board recently found merit in a union accusation that Chateau management were illegally surveilling workers protesting outside the hotel.
Despite these union-busting tactics, Petersen says the workers are determined to get their jobs back, which is why they launched the boycott last February. “They were inspired by the fight they took part in,” he said. “They believe they deserve the right to go back and that they can go back and get real change in the way this place works through a union. Our boycott is going well. We hope working people will win this fight, and we think more celebrities will be on their side. »