The hottest ticket at this year’s Oscars was not for the ceremony itself but for the after party thrown by Jay-Z and Roc Nation in what has become an annual tradition at the Chateau Marmont, but in the hours leading up to the high-profile Gold Party, some Hollywood insiders say the social event of the season was in jeopardy due to ongoing boycott efforts by a local union.
Sources tell Music Mayhem that the party went ahead as scheduled because Jay-Z and his representatives went to “extreme lengths” to vet the Chateau Marmont and perform their due diligence in the face of serious claims being made by a local hospitality workers’ union.
Members of Unite Here Local 11 have been protesting outside the iconic hotel on Sunset Boulevard for nearly two years, claiming that the non-union hotel is failing to rehire employees who were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic. In letters sent to Hollywood studios, award organizations and union supporters, Unite Here Local 11 co-president Kurt Petersen has said, “We understand that the Chateau Marmont holds a special place in Hollywood, and we believe that its workers deserve similar esteem.”
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in March and April of 2020, tens of thousands of hospitality workers were laid off in Southern California during staff reductions as hotel owners and managers took steps to stay financially viable with the prospect of months of travel restrictions.
Petersen admitted that 95% of Unite Here Local 11 workforce lost their jobs during those first few months of the pandemic. According to public documents filed with the Department of Labor, the union lost 10,629 members between 2019 and 2020, a 37% drop which resulted in a $7 million dollar revenue shortfall in 2020.
Unlike some hotels which were forced to close temporarily including those that have never reopened, the Chateau Marmont maintained a small full-time staff to keep the hotel open in a limited capacity during the pandemic to serve longtime guests who chose to remain on the property after COVID had shut down most businesses.
“Every business in the hospitality industry had to make tough choices in the early days of the pandemic,” said a spokesperson for Chateau Marmont. “The only way to keep the Chateau open and financially viable after more than 90 years in business was to reduce staff until guests were ready and willing to travel and stay at hotels again.”
Fast-forward two years later, and while COVID is still present in the form of different variants in 2022, the hospitality industry has started to see a return to pre-pandemic levels of travel and visitors and no time is busier in Hollywood than Oscar season.
In the last few years, Jay-Z’s invite-only gathering has become the gold standard for Oscars after parties, attracting A-list celebrities from movies and music to literature and art. The Gold Party debuted at the Chateau Marmont in 2018 and has been held there every year since except 2021 when no parties were being held during the height of the pandemic.
“Jay-Z and Roc Nation were very aware of the union’s protests and wanted to find out what was going on before they returned to the Chateau again,” said a source close to the situation. “What they found was a very different picture than the one being painted by union activists.”
In discussions with Chateau representatives, Roc Nation executives learned that employees at the storied hotel are paid significantly higher wages than their counterparts at comparable hotels in Southern California, both union and non-union. Chateau staff also receive free health insurance benefits.
Since a right-to-recall ordinance was put in place in Los Angeles as well as a return-to-work law across the State of California, Chateau management has rehired more than 40 former employees according to the tenure guidelines established in those laws with plans to bring more employees back as the hotel increases its capacity.
A source tells Music Mayhem that Roc Nation representatives spoke with employees at the Chateau Marmont, including several people of color at the management and administrative level, to hear their first-hand accounts of the pay and working conditions at the hotel and came away satisfied that management was “treating their employees with dignity and respect.” Any guests with invitations to the party who had questions about the union’s claims were reportedly briefed on the findings of Roc Nation’s vetting.
In the days leading up to the Oscars, union leaders staged a press conference with black clergy leaders to repeat unproven allegations of racial discrimination and harassment made in two lawsuits against the hotel that have already been dismissed.
“These meritless allegations are all unproven for one simple reason: They were manufactured in lawsuits bought and paid for by Unite Here Local 11 as part of their targeted efforts to unionize Chateau Marmont,” a spokesman for the hotel said. “Contrary to the bogus claims in these already-dismissed, union-backed sham filings, Chateau Marmont has a long and well-documented history of diversity and inclusion among both our employees and our guests.”
At the press conference, union leaders falsely claimed that the Gold Party was violating a conditional use permit at its Bar Marmont location due to the late hours of the event and that the staffing of the Gold Party indicated that hotel management was not following the right-to-recall ordinance and return-to-work law, all in an effort to get Jay-Z to cancel his event.
By the time the party was getting started, city officials had already confirmed that a Special Permit had been issued to the vendor hosting the party, so the event was in total compliance with local ordinances. It was also revealed that the location had been leased to Jay-Z’s company, and that no Chateau staff were involved in any aspect of the party, including servers, valet and security personnel. Translation: neither the hotel nor the party organizers were in violation of the right-to-recall ordinance.
Despite the union’s relentless attempts to shut it down, the Gold Party went ahead as planned with A-list celebrities like Rihanna, P Diddy, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Michael B. Jordan and Timothée Chalomet reportedly in attendance. Union activists, who obtained a permit from the city to block the entrance to the Chateau Marmont hotel and prevent guests from entering the front door for several hours on Sunday night, shifted their protest down the street to Bar Marmont at 11pm to try to disrupt the arrival of the party’s guests, despite the fact that their actions were beyond the legal scope of their permit.
The confrontations eventually turned ugly. The Hollywood Reporter reported that a protestor carrying a sign yelled “I think I saw you in that straight-to-DVD movie” to a female guest arriving at the party, while footage obtained from TMZ showed protestors harassing hotel guests trying to get onto the property and getting into physical altercations with Los Angeles police officers outside the Bar Marmont. Around 1 a.m. Monday morning, the Hollywood Reporter observed the protestors dispersing as one man in a megaphone said, “We sent a powerful message to the wealthy people in Hollywood.”
It is unclear whether anyone inside the Gold Party heard that message as revelers continued their celebration into the wee hours of the morning.