Black Clergy Leaders Urge Jay-Z to Move Chateau Oscar Party Amid Hotel Boycott
Black clergy leaders joined veteran Chateau Marmont workers on Friday morning (March 25) at a press conference held outside Roc Nation’s Hollywood office to urge its founder Jay-Z to reconsider his plan to host his exclusive Gold Party, the most coveted Oscar night invite, on the grounds of the legendary Sunset Strip hotel. L.A. hospitality union UNITE HERE Local 11 has organized an expanding, star-studded boycott movement, enacted in response to alleged systemic labor violations, racial injustice, and sexual discrimination.
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Speakers include Rev. William D. Smart Jr. was the executive director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s regional chapter. Pastor Cue was also present with the Clergy for Black Lives.
“JayZ has said the right words,” Pastor Cue stated from a podium, as protestors held signs behind him. “He has said that ‘Black Lives Matter.’ He even donated millions to the cause, and we are grateful for that.” But he must now put his actions in line with his words.” He said: “You can’t say Black Lives Matter and ignore the workers. Most of them workers of colour have spent years behind-the scenes serving the Chateau’s A-list guests at the hotel, and at your Gold Parties. However, they were thrown out onto the streets during the pandemic .”
On Friday morning, the union’s General Counsel wrote to the city officials, asking them to inform Jay-Z (and Roc Nation) that the event cannot proceed due to multiple violations of the zoning permit. The Gold Party, previously co-hosted by Jay-Z and Beyonce (who’s expected to perform her song “Be Alive” from King Richard on the awards telecast from a Compton tennis court), has eclipsed Vanity Fair‘s event as the top post-Oscar stop. It took a hiatus in 2021 due to the pandemic but in recent years had been held in the Chateau’s parking garage. It’s scheduled to take place in the adjacent lounge space, the former Bar Marmont. Chateau owner Andre Balazs is considering converting it into a members-only club.
The Bar Marmont space’s zoning permit places numerous restrictions on its use, according to a 2014 document viewed by The Hollywood Reporter. These include: “The facility shall be not be used by private parties .”
A spokesperson for the Chateau contends that Roc Nation “has gotten a special permit from the city that supersedes our permit.” UNITE HERE Local 11 is skeptical: “If they have a permit to party all night long, we along with the Chateau’s neighbors would be interested in seeing it Sunday night,” says Zoe Tucker, a staff attorney with the union.
Roc Nation didn’t respond to requests for comment. Jay-Z has been silent since Variety first surfaced the Gold Party’s location on Mar. 21.
After the press conference in front of Roc Nation, Chateau employee Walter Almendarez, who was laid off in March 2020 after 23 years with the hotel, was intercepted by building security when he attempted to present a legal complaint he’d filed with the California Labor Commissioner alleging the Chateau and Roc Nation are in violation of SB-93, the state return-to-work law, by failing to rehire workers. Soon, LAPD officers arrived and encouraged protestors to leave.
A spokesperson for Chateau notes that the event will be held in accordance with Roc Nation and that no hotel staff will work the event. The boycott is attributed to the slow pace of hiring back-to-work workers. (The hotel claims that about 40 of the more than 200 employees who were laid off at the onset of the pandemic have now been brought back.) The representative stated that they are causing revenue loss and slowing down the process. “We’re bringing home less money. Why would this encourage us to hire at an earlier rate ?”
A Black former events server at the Chateau, Thomasina Gross, filed a 2021 lawsuit against the hotel. She claimed that she was subject to racial discrimination in her job advancement.
” “I’m a big fan of Jay-Z and Beyonce, so working at their Gold Party every year was such a pleasure and honor,” she stated in a statement on Mar. 22. “They made it a point of acknowledging our hard work and treated all of us as human beings, not just server. They said that our presence was important to them as it helped their party succeed. In my lawsuit, I claim that I was subject to sexual harassment as a Black woman working at Chateau. I can’t help but wonder if Jay-Z would have noticed how Chateau treats its workers and wouldn’t continue throwing parties there .”
The Chateau has been embattled since THR published a 2020 investigation into its toxic workplace, based on interviews with more than 30 employees. The story claimed that the general manager made racist comments, and that the hotel’s culture of treating minorities included high-profile Black visitors and Latino guests. Tiffany Haddish’s representative confirmed two of these incidents.
The hotel has been the subject of multiple civil lawsuits, including the Gross complaint. These civil suits allege harassment and discrimination. The Chateau spokesperson said they were “meritless” as well as “manufactured” and noted that they were “bought” and paid for by the union (which had been trying to organize the hotel before the pandemic). He also criticised their filing in court as a bid to get publicity before moving to arbitration.
Lauren Teukolsky, attorney to Gross and April Blackwell, who’s also sued for racial discrimination, takes exception to the characterization. She says that the idea that the union somehow “bought” these claims is false. “I have my own law practice that is completely independent of the union. These cases are not paid by the union. These cases were meritorious. We look forward to vindicating our clients’ claims.” Adds Tucker, the UNITE HERE Local 11 attorney: “The Chateau has, against the plaintiffs’ wishes, forced their cases out of public court and into private arbitration — a secretive system that Jay-Z himself has criticized for its paltry number of African-American arbitrators. The Chateau is only increasing its disrespect for these two former employees, both Black women, and calling their good-faith legal claims a scam
Los Angeles City Councilmember, Nithya Raman, whose Fourth District represents the Chateau, supported the boycott and the litigants in a statement she provided to THR. “Angelenos are now aware of poor working conditions and racial discrimination during the Chateau Marmont pandemic,” she stated. We stand with the workers and hope that Hollywood doesn’t forget these .”
The growing boycott movement was supported by the WGA, a slew prominent Black figures including Issa RAE, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Gabrielle Union. After the Gold Party news was made public, Adam McKay, his Don’t Look Up screenwriter David Sirota pledged their support. Jane Fonda and Alfonso Cuaron joined the effort, as did Lena Headey, Jane Falco, and Lena Headey.
In 2021, at least two productions — Being the Ricardos and The Offer — reversed initial plans to shoot at the hotel. Producer Todd Black released a statement following the shooting, saying that Aaron Sorkin, the cast of Being the Ricardos and the crew stand in solidarity with the Chateau Marsmont’s workforce. “We are committed in supporting and building an equitable and safe environment where everyone can work with dignity without fear.” We are thankful to the organizers of the hospitality workers’ union of UNITE HERE Local 11 for sharing this information about the mistreatment of the workers.”
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.
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