This video produced by the LA Alliance for a New Economy documents elements of the Living Wage campaign in Los Angeles. An actor dressed as the ghost of Jacob Marley from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” haunts Los Angeles city hall warning the mayor and council members to consider the needs of low wage workers in December 1996. The council passed the ordinance covering workers for city contractors, and later voted to override the veto of Mayor Richard Riordan in April 1997.
After a majority of workers at the New Otani Hotel in downtown Los Angeles supported unionization, hotel management refused to negotiate. Members of HERE Local 11 from other Los Angeles hotels pledged to support the New Otani workers with weekly demonstrations that escalated into long-lasting boycott. This 1996 video produced by HERE Local 11 documents the union’s strategy of targeting the Kajima Corporation, a large Japanese construction firm that was the major stakeholders in the New Otani, which led to alliances with Japanese trade unionists and the Japanese-American community in Los Angeles. An example of “corporate campaigns” that many unions mounted in the 1980s, the boycott campaign focused on Kajima’s role in mid-century Japanese military expansion, the privatization of public services in Japan during the 1980s, and the public development subsidies Los Angeles had provided to Kajima and its partners. The film ends with scenes of a large act of nonviolent civil disobedience in the streets outside the hotel.