Former employees of the Chateau Marmont have urged celebrities to boycott the hotel
The Chateau Marmont is, as Cher from Clueless would call it, “a full-on Monet”. The famous hotel seems like a chic oasis for the rich and famous: a sun-bleached gothic castle emblematic of Old Hollywood glamour and decadence, fringed with palm trees and nestled in the base of the Hollywood Hills. But up close, “it’s a big old mess”.
Underneath the hotel’s glitzy exterior lies a rotten core. At the onset of the pandemic, the legendary hotel’s owner André Balazs laid off virtually the entire workforce. He neglected to provide any of them with severance packages or extended health insurance. Then, in September 2020, the Hollywood Reporter published an exposé featuring accounts from former employees about the hotel’s toxic work culture, which reportedly included racial discrimination and sexual misconduct. Balazs himself was accused of openly using illegal drugs in the workplace and groping five employees.
Since 2021, the UNITE HERE Local 11 hospitality union in Los Angeles has led a boycott of the hotel and asked its illustrious clientele to join them in taking a stand against the injustices they’ve faced. Many have heeded the pleas from the organisers and respected the boycott, including Jane Fonda, Gabrielle Union, Spike Lee, and Issa Rae. Even Casey Affleck turned around and left after he saw the picket at the post-Oscars bash. But unfortunately, not everyone in the showbiz industry has shown the same solidarity with the Chateau’s workers.
On Sunday evening Jay-Z and Beyoncé went ahead with their Gold Party at the Chateau Marmont, having declined the chance to move their event elsewhere. Protestors projected the word ‘boycott’ onto the hotel’s exterior and picketed the party, but the Carters decided to cross the picket line all the same. Other celebrities who reportedly attended the party and crossed the picket line include Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Emily Ratajkowski, Janelle Monáe and Saweetie.
Keisha Banks, former events server at the Chateau Marmont, said it was “disappointing and frustrating” to see celebrities prioritise their party over the workers’ plight. “It might just be one party to them but these are people’s livelihoods,” she said. “Why would they want to be associated with a hotel that discriminates and cheats its employees? I am glad for Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union and others who honoured the boycott and who have inspired us to continue speaking up until we win the dignity and respect that we deserve.”
What’s even more jarring is that a number of these celebrities have fashioned themselves as progressive and alert to social justice issues. For instance: Jay-Z vocally supported the Black Lives Matter movement and even generously donated 0.1 per cent of his wealth to the organisation, but crossing the picket line demonstrates that he’s not necessarily willing to uplift the Black working class when it inconveniences him. Similarly, although Ratajkowski supported Bernie Sanders back in 2020, she’s evidently quite content to go on being politely “displeased” with capitalism while simultaneously upholding it. And as for Kimmy K, well, she’d probably just suggest they all just get their fucking asses up and work, or something.
“We hoped that Jay-Z would do the right thing and move his party. He had every opportunity to do so. But he made it clear what side he was on,” said Kurt Petersen, co-President of UNITE HERE Local 11, who attended the protest. “He was not on the side of workers, of Black women, of justice for working people.”
“The so-called stars skulking into the party was an insult to the brave workers who have risked everything to win respect and dignity at work,” he continued. “This callous disregard is evidence to everyone that neither Jay-Z, Rihanna, Michael B. Jordan, Zoë Kravitz, nor the Chateau Marmont care about anyone or anything except themselves.”