Los Angeles-based union enters Aspen election debate
Unite Here Local 11 reported in a campaign finance filing to the city this week that it has spent $500 on ads.
A mailer that arrived in voters’ mailboxes this week attacks Lowe Enterprises, which is one of the investors in the proposed Gorsuch Haus, a 64,000-square-foot hotel that is part of the Lift One Corridor Plan voters are deciding on.
The union claims that Lowe has mistreated employees with instances of sexual harassment and low pay at other hotels it has interests in. Local 11 also claims that several Lowe projects have gone into foreclosure or endured financial problems.
Jim DeFrancia, a principal at Lowe and a local representative for the firm, said the claims are untrue. He addresses them in a letter to the editor that appears in today’s commentary pages.
On Thursday, he told The Aspen Times that while it’s true that Lowe stopped some projects due to the Great Recession, the firm also was appointed by courts all over the country to be the receiver for other failed real estate deals during the financial downturn.
Representatives from Unite Here Local 11 didn’t answer numerous questions from The Aspen Times about their campaign against the ballot question, including how they were alerted to the local election.
Sponsored ads from the union are appearing on Aspenites’ Facebook feeds, which link to letters to the editor against the proposal and websites related to the #MeToo movement.
Roxana Aslan, a research analyst for Local 11 and the designated representative listed with the city, did not answer questions about the union’s social media campaign.
In an email response to the questions posed by The Aspen Times, Aslan restated the union’s claims about Lowe Enterprises.
Andrew Cohen, an organizer for Unite Here Local 11 and listed as a spokesman, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In a follow-up email Thursday, Aslan answered a question about a misrepresentation that appears in the mailer.
The campaign material suggests that Aspen taxpayers are giving a $4.36 million subsidy to Lowe Enterprises to build a luxury hotel.
The Aspen City Council approved a public-private partnership with the developers of Lift One Lodge, a timeshare project that also is part of the ballot question.
The public money would be used for improvements to Dean Street and a new ski museum to be built in a relocated Skiers Chalet lodge next to a new telemix chairlift.
“The mailer misstated the direct recipient of the taxpayer subsidy, which will go to Lift One Lodge rather than Gorsuch Haus,” Aslan said. “We regret the error.”
DeFrancia said he encountered the same kind of tactics by Unite Here Local 11 when he and Lowe were proposing to redevelop the Pan and Fork parcel in Basalt a few years ago.
The union sent letters to the Basalt Town Council and the town manager at the time, alleging the same type of claims.
DeFrancia said he sat down with elected officials and explained the company’s positions on the claims.
“Locally we never heard from them again,” he said.
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Basalt depends on sales taxes for about 60 percent of its overall revenues. That will obviously take a hit from the economic impact of the coronavirus. On the one hand, grocery sales will stay strong. On the other hand, most other categories are plummeting.