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Ada Briceño, Susan Minato, Kurt Petersen: United front for Unite Here

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Ada Briceño, Susan Minato, Kurt Petersen: United front for Unite Here

From left, Susan Minato, Ada Briceño and Kurt Petersen, photographed at the Los Angeles Times in El Segundo on Nov. 8.

As top executives who share a leadership post, Unite Here Local 11 co-presidents Ada Briceño, Susan Minato and Kurt Petersen aim to present a united front as they steer the politically powerful union representing more than 32,000 hotel workers across Southern California and Arizona.

Last year, they showed their solidarity: in handcuffs.

The three were arrested together — and not for the first time — during a protest in the run-up to the Southern California hotel strike, the largest in U.S. history. The strike, which started in early July, involved more than 15,000 hospitality workers at some 60 properties in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

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The trio’s mutual support that day was more than a public pose; it’s a core precept of their unique power-sharing arrangement, believed to be the first of its kind at a U.S. labor union.

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One might assume that three people at the helm would butt heads from time to time. But that’s not the case, the co-presidents said.

“In case of a controversial decision, two could outvote the one, but I can’t think of the last time that actually happened,” Petersen said.

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“We have never not had full consensus,” Minato said. “The good thing about the compatibility and the trust is that it really, truly enables you to do more.”

Briceño, 51, Minato, 62, and Petersen, 58, who met in the 1990s as young organizers, divide their responsibilities loosely, in accordance with the situation.

At rallies, all can usually be found among the sea of Unite Here red shirts and trading off at the podium, delivering fiery remarks in English and Spanish — in Petersen’s case, in Spanish with a heavy American accent that staff and members find endearing.

Minato often takes point on organizing food service workers, such as those at Universal Studios or airline catering companies, while Petersen heads up hotels and Briceño largely focuses on Orange County and elected officials. But the designations are informal and so loose as to be nonexistent at times. During the hotel strike, it’s been all hands on deck, they said.

‘The good thing about the compatibility and the trust is that it really, truly enables you to do more.’

— Susan Minato

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Unite Here Local 11 has fused labor and political power with significant results.

The more than 10-month-old strike now appears to be nearing its end, with dozens of hotels agreeing to immediate raises of $5 per hour for front desk clerks, dishwashers and housekeepers.

In November, the union won a deal with the Los Angeles City Council for an ordinance aimed at reducing the city’s housing shortage in exchange for dropping a ballot measure that would have required hotels to participate in a city program to put homeless residents in vacant hotel rooms.

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In 2022, Unite Here Local 11 persuaded politicians to reduce workloads for Los Angeles hotel employees, and, in 2021, to raise the minimum wage for West Hollywood hotel workers. In 2018, Long Beach voters approved a union-backed measure requiring hotels to provide panic buttons for workers.

The union has had losses too. Unite Here Local 11 gathered enough signatures to force a special election in Anaheim on whether to raise the city’s minimum wage for hotel and event center workers to $25. In October, voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure.

“We’re shocking people. We’re shocking the bosses,” Briceño said, “because the voices of our workers is what’s front and center for us.”

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Magic Johnson: Billionaire point guard of the city

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Magic Johnson: Billionaire point guard of the city

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, photographed at the Los Angeles Times in El Segundo on Dec. 7.

In a moment of reflection last summer, Earvin “Magic” Johnson thought back to two men who had helped to shape him and push him to new heights of post-NBA success, and how proud both would be if they were alive to see the breadth of his transition into the second chapter of an iconic career.

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His dad, Earvin Johnson Sr., was his mentor from the time he was a kid growing up in Lansing, Mich., emphasizing and modeling the importance of hard work. Lakers owner Jerry Buss gave him the original blueprint for flourishing in business, introducing him to a new world beyond the basketball court.

Johnson’s first venture into ownership in professional sports franchises was with the Lakers in 1994 and has since expanded to include Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers (2012), the Women’s National Basketball Assn.’s Sparks (2014), Major League Soccer’s LAFC (2014) and, last year, the National Football League’s Washington Commanders. A five-time NBA champion with the Lakers and three-time NBA most valuable player, Johnson is currently part-owner of teams in four U.S. sports leagues (he sold his stake in the Lakers in 2010). No athlete is more connected to Los Angeles or has done more to connect others to the city.

‘What a blessing. But you don’t get there alone. I have my people.’

— Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson

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“When people are running for mayor, they call me,” Johnson said. “Both Rick Caruso and Karen Bass called me. When they’re running for governor in this state, they call me. When they’re running for governor across a lot of states, they call me. And when they run for president, they call me.

“When things happen in this city, one of the first calls is to Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson. Who would have ever thought that would ever happen?”

Last October, Johnson was named to the billionaire club by Forbes, becoming the fourth athlete — after Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and LeBron James — to reach that pantheon. It’s an honor Johnson doesn’t take lightly, given his friendships with the other three.

Magic Johnson

“Basically, you owe a lot of that to Dr. Buss,” Johnson told The Times in that summer interview. “It was his mentorship. He guided me and he was that father figure that made sure I had all the tools necessary to be successful. When you think about days like this, you wish him and my father were still alive to see what I’ve accomplished.”

Johnson, 64, said his dreams had always been to play in the NBA and to become a businessman. He is showing athletes what they can do in a post-athletic career.

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“I didn’t even think about being an owner of a team — it just blew my mind,” Johnson said. “What a blessing. But you don’t get there alone. I have my people. This is not something that, like, it’s by myself. And it starts with my dad and Dr. Buss. … They paved the way for me and I can’t thank them enough.”

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Stan Kroenke: Championship owner; Taylor Swift, Beyoncé host

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Stan Kroenke: Championship owner; Taylor Swift, Beyoncé host

Stan Kroenke didn’t just build a football stadium. The Rams owner and billionaire developer solved a puzzle that had confounded the NFL for two decades. He found a way to reunite the nation’s No. 1 sports league and No. 2 market.

In the process, Kroenke moved the Rams from St. Louis and constructed a swooping, $5-billion sports and entertainment complex at Hollywood Park that changed the landscape of Los Angeles and shifted pro football’s center of gravity to the West Coast.

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“I don’t believe there’s anybody who could have made that happen other than Stan Kroenke, because of the situation he was in,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “He owned an NFL franchise that was struggling in its current market. He understood how to put a development project together, he had that vision. And he had the capital to be able to do it.”

Kroenke, whose stadium is also home to the Chargers, shouldered enormous risk to turn that vision into a reality. That garnered a lot of respect from some of the NFL’s most influential owners, among them Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots.

“Robert toured the site when it was just a hole in the ground,” said Kroenke, 76. “He said it took a lot of guts. I said, ‘Well, this is all good, but when I’m sitting on a street corner out here in a few years, will you buy me a cup of coffee?’”

‘He owned an NFL franchise that was struggling in its current market. He understood how to put a development project together, he had that vision.’

— Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner

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In the years since, SoFi Stadium has hosted a string of huge events, none more thrilling to Kroenke than his Rams winning Super Bowl LVI on their home field in February 2022. That Lombardi Trophy launched an 18-month stretch during which two other Kroenke franchises — the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the NBA’s Denver Nuggets — also won championships.

“You talk about the movie business,” Kroenke said. “Well, you could write that script and nobody would believe it.”

SoFi Stadium was also home to college football’s national championship game in early 2023. Extended tour stops last summer by Beyoncé and Taylor Swift — whose “Eras Tour” movie was filmed over the course of two dates at the Inglewood venue — elevated SoFi beyond football to a 3.1-million-square-foot symbol of the massive scope of L.A.’s cultural power.

“I knew that SoFi Stadium would become the Eighth Wonder of the World,” said Anthony Noto, chief executive of SoFi, the online personal finances company. “But I’d be lying if I told you I knew it would be a movie star, too.”

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Watchdog group files IRS complaint against Epoch Times Network

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Watchdog group files IRS complaint against Epoch Times Network

The government watchdog organization Accountable.US filed an IRS complaint against the Epoch Public Foundation and the Epoch Times Assn., the nonprofit groups affiliated with the right wing media outlet the Epoch Times.

The complaint, sent to the IRS last week, requests an investigation into “potentially false or fraudulent information” made on the nonprofit’s tax returns for the fiscal years 2021 and 2022.

Earlier this month, Weidong “Bill” Guan, the chief financial officer of the Epoch Times, was arrested and charged in what federal prosecutors called a “sprawling, transnational scheme” to launder at least $67 million in illicit funds.

Guan used cryptocurrency to purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds, including prepaid debit cards, fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits and stolen personal information that was used to spike the Epoch Times’ reported annual revenue, according to the indictment, handed down last month.

The scheme began in 2020, when the Epoch Times’ “Make Money Online” team led by Guan purchased “crime proceeds” and transferred them to accounts associated with the media company, the indictment stated. Federal prosecutors alleged that the funds increased company’s revenue 410% in a single year to $62 million.

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Guan deposited $16.7 million of the proceeds into his personal accounts, according to the Justice Department, but did not report this income on his tax filings.

A grand jury indicted Guan with one count of money laundering and two counts of bank fraud.

Following his arrest, the Epoch Times released a statement on its website saying that it has suspended Guan “until this matter is resolved,” adding that, the “company intends to and will fully cooperate with any investigation dealing with the allegations against Mr. Guan.

Accountable is a progressive nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., that monitors the financial transactions of right wing groups. Its complaint cites “several apparent inconsistencies and reporting errors” in the Epoch Public Foundation and the Epoch Times Assn.’s tax filings.

“The discrepancies and apparent reporting errors in EPF’s and ETA’s Form 990s for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 are cause for concern as they occurred while Weidong ‘Bill’ Guan … was allegedly engaged in a money laundering scheme related to his business ventures, according to federal prosecutors,” states their letter to the IRS.

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A representative of Epoch Times could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by Chinese Americans affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual movement that is banned in China. Headquartered in New York, the newspaper began as a small, free giveaway focused on criticizing the Chinese Communist Party.

The media outlet has since become a forceful presence among conservative news organizations, known for spreading conspiracy theories, particularly on social media, and as a staunch supporter of former President Trump and his allies.

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