News

Capitol Hyatt still off limits for Democrats

This weekend, as Democrats from across California descend on Sacramento
forthe state party’s annual convention, they have snatched up hotel
rooms at an early every hotel in the Downtown area.

Every hotel, that is, except the Hyatt Regency.

“We don’t do the Hyatt,” said Democratic Party executive director Kathy
Bowler.

That’s because the Hyatt–located only a block from the convention center and
across the street from the Capitol–is a non-union hotel. The convention
materials sent out to members of the Democratic faithful make no mention of
the Hyatt, though the party does recommend six other hotels, five of which
are farther from the convention center than the Hyatt, including the
Radisson hotel, which is 2.8 miles away.

Bowler is quick to emphasize that the Democratic Party never stays at
non-union hotels during conventions–in Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles or
elsewhere. But the Sacramento Hyatt, located at 12th and L streets, has a
particularly contentious history with Democrats and their union backers that
dates back almost 20 years.

The hotel first opened in 1987 and has been a non-union establishment ever
since.

Joe McLaughlin, president of the local hotel-employees union UNITE HERE says
the Hyatt broke a promise to be open to unions from the beginning. Union
volunteers picketed in front of the hotel for two years after it opened.
Then there are the stories of Democratic legislators who unknowingly have
accepted, and then backed out of, speaking engagements at the hotel.
Former Senate President Pro Tem Dave Roberti, who led the Senate from 1980
until 1994, says he only walked into the building once.

“I was scheduled to give a speech to a group from out of town and they had
no idea about the history of the Hyatt,” said Roberti, who says that none of
his staffers patronized the hotel. “I think I went through a backdoor and I
left that same way.”

But Republicans regularly hold events in the Hyatt. In fact, the hotel’s
luxurious penthouse suite is home to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger whenever
he is in Sacramento. He paid $6,000-a-month in campaign funds to the Hyatt
in his first year in office, and has since set up a nonprofit foundation to
pay for his Hyatt residence.

The seriousness with which legislative Democrats take the Hyatt moratorium
varies from member to member. Almost no Democratic legislator holds events
there.

But the passage of time and the advent of term limits have softened the
opposition of many Democrats to the Capitol’s most convenient hotel, as
fewer and fewer legislators and legislative staffers remember the
contentious pickets of the 1980s.

“I admit, I have sinned,” says Assembly Speaker Fabian N


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