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California-Letter-Striking-Workers-Laguna-Cliffs-Reseort-John-Tesar-Chef.jpg Mario Tama / Getty Images
Union organizers and elected officials expressed their concern about actions at the Laguna Cliffs Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Calif. The hotel is owned by the University of California's restirement system.

Chef John Tesar becomes target in California labor dispute

Unite Here Local 11 and elected officials register concern over Laguna Cliffs Marriott developments

Elected officials in a letter to the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa owner have registered their concern over a union dispute at the hotel and what they consider “violent” actions by chef John Tesar, who recently opened a Knife Modern Steak restaurant at the property.

Unite Here Local 11, which represents workers at the property, on Monday issued a press release that said 48 California legislators, including state treasurer Fiona Ma and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), had written Jagdeep Singh Bachher, the University of California’s chief investment officer, to express concern over developments at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point, Calif., which serves as home for the Dallas-based Tesar’s Knife Modern Steak restaurant.

The hotel is owned by the University of California Retirement System and managed by Plano, Texas-based Aimbridge Hospitality.

John Tesar Chef.jpg“Since July 1, 2023, a labor dispute at the hotel has created financial and reputational risks,” the union said. “In the case of John Tesar, the Michelin-winning ‘celebrity chef’ behind the Knife Modern Steak restaurant at the hotel, we believe that neither the hotel management company, Aimbridge, nor U.C.’s investment managers are taking action quickly enough to address allegations that chef Tesar engaged in disturbing behavior toward striking workers.”

The letter detailed concerns about instances of violence directed at workers that have occurred at the property during the labor dispute.

On July 17, Unite Here Local 11 filed a federal unfair labor practice charge against the hotel, alleging that the resort encouraged, sanctioned, and/or failed to take reasonable steps to prevent violence by guests against picketers.

“The charge is pending investigation by the National Labor Relations Board,” the group said. “The situation escalated on July 25 when celebrity chef John Tesar broke a drum a worker was holding and was filmed saying to hotel employees, ‘Take your union and shove it. …’” as well as adding several profanities.

A message left with Aimbridge Hospitality’s public relations firm had not been returned by press time.

The legislators’ letter said the resort’s incidents were “profoundly troubling” and raise “serious concerns about management of the hotel and the effectiveness of the University of California in managing its investment assets.”

On Aug. 23, the union local announced a boycott of all Los Angeles hotels until the labor dispute is resolved. Hotel workers across Southern California and Arizona have been working without a contract since July 1.

The lawmakers’ letter said: “In addition to being concerned about the wellbeing of the hotel’s workers, we wish to avoid disruptions to the quality of the service at the hotel and long-term damage to the hotel’s brand and reputation.

“Accordingly,” it continued, “we would like you to outline concrete actions the U.C. Investment Office will take to address the potential financial and reputational damage arising from developments at the hotel and to work to resolve the ongoing labor dispute. We ask that you provide a response to this letter by Aug. 31, 2023.”

Unite Here Local 11 is a labor union representing more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on X: @RonRuggless

TAGS: Operations
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