Calling in the feds - Page 3

Hotel sought immigration audit of workers asserting their right to a living wage

Doing so could, in fact, violate State or Federal law and subject you to legal consequences."

An emergency ordinance returned workers to the Woodfin while the city investigated their retaliation claims, but on April 27 the hotel defied the ordinance by firing 12 immigrant workers, again citing problems with Social Security numbers.

The city issued a notice of violation; even probusiness city council member Dick Kassis, who opposed Measure C, called the Woodfin's behavior "morally reprehensible" at a May 1 council meeting. On May 3 police arrested 38 people at a civil disobedience protest supporting the workers in front of the hotel, including Assemblyperson Loni Hancock and Berkeley city council member Kriss Worthington.

The almost maddeningly soft-spoken and reasoned Emeryville city council member John Fricke, who in February was the target of an unsuccessful restraining order filed by the hotel over his alleged "threatening" behavior, posed the following conundrum to us: why would a successful business continue to pursue litigation that is not cost-effective?

"I'm assuming their success is based on their business acumen," he said. Yet as a lawyer, he estimates that attorney fees are well above $100,000, on top of another $100,000 in fees borne by the city and at least that much in worker back pay. "You would think the wise business decision would be to cut one's losses," he said.

One possible answer: EBASE organizer Brooke Anderson said this is actually an "ideological battle."

The Woodfin's Hardage has spent more than $230,000 since 2000 to fund conservative politicians and ballot measures, including political committees that have taken antiunion and antitax positions on state and local ballot propositions, according to EBASE. He chaired the San Diego County Republican Party from 1995 to 1997 and has served as a fundraiser in several Republican campaigns.

Hardage cofounded the Project for California's Future in 2001, which the Heritage Foundation describes as "a multi-year, multi-million dollar project" to prepare Republican candidates for California office and "represents a first-ever program to rebuild the conservative bench from the water board level on up."

The project's cofounder is Ron Nehring, the passionately antilabor vice chairman of the California Republican Party and senior consultant to Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. Nehring was also once director of government affairs for the Woodfin Suites.

A 2005 report by the Center on Policy Initiatives, a progressive think tank, names Nehring, Hardage, and Norquist among those who have helped the Republicans target San Diego as a model for their plan to radically cut government funding, permanently weaken labor unions, and privatize public services.

The ideological battle manifested itself at the Saturday-morning picket, which pitted roughly 15 College Republicans from Bay Area schools against 25 laid-off workers and supporters, each group with a bullhorn, separated by barricades and cops.

The Woodfin provided free rooms for the student counterdemonstrators, Ryan Clumpner, a UC Davis senior and chair of the California College Republicans, told us. Surrounded by signs such as "Quit 'Stalin': Get Back to Work," and "Respect the Law," Clumpner said he was "here supporting the Woodfin, which is being unfairly targeted by unions."

"I've actually done housecleaning," he said. Between semesters one summer, he said, he made $7 an hour cleaning rooms at UC Davis; immigrants supporting families in the Bay Area should also be content with this wage, he said. "If they want to make more, they can move up to supervisor positions," he said. "They're here for a reason. This country is offering economic opportunities.

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