Senator Elizabeth Warren announced today that she would be adding her name to the growing list of elected officials, celebrities and activists leading the #CancelTerranea movement, a national boycott of the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.
The boycott has been joined by over 40 national, state and local office holders throughout California, including Congresswoman Katie Hill; California State Senators Connie Leyva and Maria Elena Durazo; Assemblymembers Laura Friedman and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher; and Los Angeles City Councilmember Nury Martinez. They join leading feminists in Dolores Huerta and Jane Fonda, as well as the California Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the California Democratic Party.
Terranea Resort—one of the region’s largest hospitality employers—has attracted negative press for its handling of claims of sexual harassment.
UNITE HERE, a labor union in the United States and Canada with roughly 300,000 active members, was involved with the Terranea accusations from the beginning and helped launch the boycott in October 2018. Maria Hernandez, a communications specialist at the organization, spoke to Ms. about the impact of having a political powerhouse like Elizabeth Warren pledge her support for #CancelTerranea.
“Having Elizabeth Warren stand with women and show her support for the silence breakers shows she’s putting words into action,” Hernandez told Ms. “It goes to show that real working women have a voice. Their stories should be taken seriously and heard. The impact is going to be huge.”
Sandra Pezqueda, a resort dishwasher, was the first to come forward in 2016, claiming she was sexually harassed and assaulted by her boss, an agency supervisor. Pezqueda was subsequently fired. Since then, at least seven other female workers have come forward to say they have been threatened, harassed and attacked while at work.
Terri Hack, the company’s president, has denied responsibility for the attacks, saying, “[T]hese accusations have nothing to do with Terranea,” according to Ms. reporting from the Winter 2019 issue.
Pezqueda and the other Terranea victims are not focused only on their individual cases. Instead, the women aim to establish systemic protections to prevent future cases. To that effect, the Terranea women are now pushing for a ballot measure in Rancho Palos Verdes that would require large hospitality employers—like Terranea Resort—to provide panic buttons for employee use, which would immediately summon assistance if an employee feels threatened or uncomfortable.
Pezqueda has also fought for legislation to protect third-party contracted employees from retaliation from their employers. Additionally, the bill would make companies like Terranea that use labor contractors equally liable for harassment and assault charges.
“It’s important to have someone like Elizabeth Warren stand with hotel workers like Sandra,” said Hernandez, “and others brave enough to speak out, in a moment where people didn’t think we should speak out. She continues to show she is standing with women and fighting for women.”
Warren’s support “proves to women like Sandra Pezqueda that their bravery is worth it,” Hernandez told Ms., “that when you speak out, that when you come forward, there is an entire community behind you that supports you; that you’re not alone.”
And although Pezqueda was honored as a “silence breaker” in Time Magazine’s 2017 person of the year issue and has since reached a $250,000 settlement, the road to justice and future assault prevention is still long and bumpy.
“Our union is predominantly made up of immigrants and women of color. And we are a fighting union,” Hernandez said, “because if we don’t fight for ourselves, no one is going to do it. And we’re not just fighting—we are also winning.”
“There is still work that needs to be done. There are still housekeepers and service industry workers all over California and all over the country who are still living in fear, who feel like they don’t have a voice; who feel like they don’t matter. But by Elizabeth Warren endorsing [the boycott], it’s shedding a light on that.”