Losing faith in the 8th?
On Sept. 19, a coalition of community groups brought an ordinance to protect hotel workers from sexual assault and abusive working conditions. Al Austin, the city council member from the 8th district, made a substitute motion, which was approved by 5 to 4.
The motion essentially blocks the Hospitality and Workload Safety Ordinance. Austin had promised the hotel workers that he would vote in favor of the ordinance.
Al Austin was handpicked by Rae Gabelich, the former city council member of the 8th district, to run for council. Rae was a great representative of the district. She held regular neighbor meetings and worked hard to keep the airlines in check. My only problem with her is that she was not particularly pro-labor. She picked Al because he was staunchly against airport noise and expansion. Austin is also a union organizer and a Democrat.
His bio states: “For the past ten years, Councilmember Austin has served as a professional staff representative for the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, where he works in support of working families, and quality public services throughout California.”
Before his reelection for his second term, Austin gave his full support to an upscale project called Riverwalk in the northern part of his district. Neighbors felt the project crammed too many homes in a small area, the access to the property was one small street and trees on the property were removed even before the planning commission had voted on the project. A slow-growth environmental group, Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP), sued the City and won some concessions.
Because of this betrayal, Laurie Angel, a CARP member, ran against Austin in the 2014 election.
Although Laurie Angel was a better candidate, I voted for Austin. I voted for him because I thought he would be for labor. My thinking was that he would vote for a living-wage ordinance and because of his background supporting working people. For me, the vote on the hotel workers is the final straw. In his justification for gutting the ordinance, Austin spoke for the hospitality industry. He said: “I came to this city as an aircraft worker from over 25 years ago, and that industry is gone. The hospitality industry is more and more important today than ever before, so I don’t want to be rushed into any decision by emotion.”
Austin is a termed-out council person. He has his sights on higher office. His actions show he no longer cares about the district or the people he serves. This is not the way for so-called Democratic Party politicians to treat working people of whatever background. Especially now, with the Trump agenda raising hate, fear and uncertainty, progressive politicians must stand up for the working people, not the developers and the corporate hospitality industry. The hotel workers and their supporters expressed their feelings after the vote. I agree; shame on you, Al Austin.
Long Beach Area Peace Network