California Unionist Arrested in Protest

Twenty-six union extremists arrested Dec. 9 night on trespassing charges at the Mission Valley Hilton were detained for several hours, despite what they said was an earlier commitment from San Diego police that they would be cited and released.

“We don’t know what happened,” said Jerry Butkiewicz, secretary-treasurer of the San Diego Labor Council and one of those arrested at the hotel demonstration. “We thought we had it all worked out with the Police Department and then this happens.” The mass arrest as part of a labor protest was the first in many years in San Diego. The 11 women arrested at 6 p.m. were released between 1 and 3 a.m. yesterday while the first of the 15 men was released at 8 a.m. The last man was released at 3 p.m., nearly 21 hours after his arrest. Each person posted $270 bail.

Jef Eatchel, secretary-treasurer of Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees Int’l Union Local 30, said he met three times with police to discuss the demonstration and how the arrests would be handled. “We thought we had it all straight,” said Eatchel, who also was arrested. “We were originally going to take 100 people into the hotel but cut it down to 26 at the request of the police.” Eatchel, who Dec. 9 erroneously said that former hotel workers were among those arrested, corrected himself yesterday. Legal advisers told the union to exclude former employees from the hotel lobby protest, he said.

The Mission Valley Hilton has been embroiled in controversy since a hotly contested union-organizing effort was defeated on a 73-68 vote in Mar. 1999. With about 250 demonstrators picketing outside the hotel Thursday, the 26 union activists entered the lobby, seating themselves around a Christmas tree. They chanted union slogans for more than half an hour before being arrested. If convicted of misdemeanor trespassing, the protesters face maximum penalties of six months in jail and $600 fines. [San Diego Union-Trib. 12/11/99]