Workers forced to walk through raw sewage in Ruth’s Chris restaurant at Grand Hyatt Seattle

On January 3rd, 2016, a plumbing malfunction caused raw sewage to flood an elevator shaft, some banquet rooms in Ruth’s Chris restaurant, and an employee locker room. The restaurant continued to function, and workers were asked to go retrieve their belongings from their lockers, requiring them to walk through raw sewage and toilet paper. One worker described the stench as “overwhelming.”

Some workers had no choice but to walk through the raw sewage and then into the kitchen without cleaning or changing their shoes. The restaurant remained open for business that evening but was closed for breakfast and lunch the following day.

Space Needle Offers “Poison Candy” To Workers

SEATTLE—Space Needle workers walked away Thursday from a month-long effort at mediation with their employer,  frustrated but ready to continue fighting for raises, protections against subcontracting, and union rights.

“I was optimistic about returning to mediation,” said cook Andy Roos. “But it’s frustrating to be so close and not see willingness from the company to compromise on key issues. The Space Needle offered raises with strings attached.  We are not willing to give in on subcontracting protections or the ability to talk to our union representative in the break room, like we’ve always been able to do. We’ve fought too long to settle for anything less than what we deserve.”

The labor dispute at Seattle’s most famous landmark began over three years ago, when Space Needle management unilaterally terminated the company’s union contract with UNITE HERE Local 8.

In early 2015, management was found to have committed five violations of federal labor law in the years since the contract was terminated. Space Needle workers have gone well over 1,000 days without raises as the cost of living in Seattle continues to climb.

“On my current wages, there’s no way I can afford to live in Seattle, let alone support my family and go back to school,” said valet cashier Veronica Chernichenko. “With rents going up and my pay staying the same, it feels impossible to make things work.”

After almost forty hours of mediation over the past weeks, including late into the night Thursday, Space Needle management showed little sign of movement on key issues.

“We will continue to pursue all avenues to get what’s needed for workers,” said Local 8 President Erik Van Rossum, a former Space Needle employee. “Raises, job security, and union rights are all absolute necessities. Any further negotiation with the company must start from a place of mutual understanding on those points.  Our members are too smart to fall for the Space Needle’s poison candy.  Raises will not matter if people’s jobs are contracted out.”

“That said, the company can give raises tomorrow—no conversation needed,” said Van Rossum. The Space Needle has had authorization from the union to implement raises since 2013, but has chosen not to do so, opting instead to hire new, temporary non-union workers at higher starting rates.

Space Needle workers continue to gain support from politicians and other civic leaders in Seattle who are concerned with the impact of such a prominent labor dispute on the City’s progressive reputation.

A rally for workers and their supporters is planned for June 19th at 9:30am at the base of the Space Needle.

Community Forum and New Report on Paid Sick Days in Seattle

When you’re sick, staying home is the responsible thing to do. This is particularly true when you work in industries where you handle and serve food or provide health care services. But in Seattle, an estimated 190,000 workers don’t get paid sick days and therefore can’t afford to do the right thing and stay home. And sure enough, they tend to work in the restaurants, grocery stores, medical centers and other service-oriented jobs that involve interacting with the public. Read more…

Join us for a community forum on the need for paid sick days in Seattle. Invitations have been extended to members of the Seattle City Council and the mayor’s office.

Wednesday, May 11
5PM – 7PM
University Christian Church
4731 15th Ave NE, Seattle

For event details, click here.

New study shows benefits of paid sick days.

Food safety and public health top the list of benefits of ensuring people working in Seattle have paid sick leave – but according to a new report, it would also improve children’s health and school performance, and provide support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. There are economic benefits too: paid sick leave reduces business costs through reduced turnover and absences, and increases workplace productivity and morale.

The report, produced by the Economic Opportunity Institute, takes a look at the numbers behind the discussion about paid sick days. For a few highlights and do download the report, click here.

Hotel Workers Rising

The only hope we have of real, long-term economic recovery depends on the creation of more good, middle-class jobs, with decent wages and healthcare our families can afford. That’s why thousands of workers bargaining for contracts across North America are joining together.

Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, but leaders in the industry like Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood and Westmont Hospitality are proposing long-term concessionary contracts that aim to make the recession permanent for thousands of hotel workers. Proposals by big hotel companies in several cities would result in the elimination of quality health care for thousands of low-wage workers.

Employers are using the economy as an excuse to slash jobs in the hotel industry, leaving many unemployed and creating burdensome working conditions for those who remain. As a result, many longtime hotel workers are struggling to provide for their families, while others are getting injured on the job.

As big hotel companies stand poised for a major rebound, thousands of hotel workers are organizing to ensure that jobs return to this important service industry and workers share in future prosperity of the hotels.

Sleep with the Right People

Sleep with the Right People is a coalition between the LGBT community and UNITE HERE, a union representing over 300,000 hospitality and manufacturing workers across North America. Together, we fight for the fair and equal treatment of all individuals.

“The solidarity between the labor movement and the LGBT movement is a powerful coalition. In San Diego, the owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt—the second largest Hyatt in North America—gave $125,000 to put Proposition 8 on the ballot. Our union and the LGBT community are boycotting the Manchester Grand Hyatt, because there is power in the union and there is power in coalition.”

–Cleve Jones,
Founder of the NAMES PROJECT AIDS Memorial Quilt
and Supporter of Sleep With The Right People