UNITE HERE Local 11: California Legislators Sign Letter En Masse Calling on UC Leadership to Protect State’s Investments in Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and Spa and Denounce Chef Tesar’s Actions

Chef taunts his return to hotel property after being filmed calling worker “a lazy pendeja”

DANA POINT, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–California State Treasurer Fiona Ma and Congresswoman Katie Porter are among 48 California elected leaders who signed a letter to University of California Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Singh Bachher, registering concern over developments at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott. The hotel is owned by the UC Retirement System:

Since July 1, 2023, a labor dispute at the hotel has created financial and reputational risks to this investment. 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 UC’s investment managers are taking action quickly enough to address allegations that Chef Tesar engaged in disturbing behavior towards striking workers. We are also deeply concerned about other reported instances of violence directed at workers that have occurred at the property during the labor dispute.

The letter details a series of incidents of alleged violence and threatening conduct against protesting workers and their supporters. 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 peaceful picketers. The charge is pending investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. 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 up you’re a–. Suck my d—-. You are a bad person. … You’re a lazy pendeja.”

Despite claims to the contrary by Aimbridge Hospitality, which manages the property for the UC, Chef Tesar posted on his Instagram account August 14 that he is back at the resort.

The letter closes with:

The conduct alleged above is profoundly troubling and raises serious concerns about management of the hotel and the effectiveness of the University of California in managing its investment assets. Compounding these concerns, we understand that UNITE HERE Local 11 has initiated a boycott campaign against the Laguna Cliffs Marriott.

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, we would like you to outline concrete actions the UC 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 August 31, 2023.

On August 23, UNITE HERE Local 11 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, 2023.

UNITE HERE Local 11 is a labor union representing more than 32,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona that work in hotels, restaurants, universities, convention centers and airports.


Maria Hernandez | mhernandez@unitehere11.org | 623-340-8047