Space Needle Workers, Seattle City Councilmembers Pledge Continued Fight for Job Security

job security action photo

SEATTLE—Workers and members of the Seattle City Council gathered at the base of the Space Needle Tuesday to continue the fight for job security at the symbol of Seattle.

One week ago, Space Needle workers won their first raises in over three years. On July 14, the Space Needle Corporation declared impasse and implemented its latest bargaining proposal. The proposal included immediate pay increases, retro pay going back to the expiration of the last union contract in 2011, and scheduled raises going forward. Workers will receive their first raises on July 24.

Space Needle workers were joined by Seattle City Councilmembers Jean Godden, Bruce Harrell, Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien and by City Council candidate Sandy Brown.

Space Needle valet cashier Veronica Chernichenko described how hard it was for her to be in school and work two jobs to support her family during the period the Space Needle was withholding raises.

“Last week, we received word that our demand for a raise had finally gotten through, and that the company would begin to pay us what we actually deserve for all the hard work we do. This raise completely changed everything for me. I’ve reduced my hours drastically at my second job thanks to my hourly wage increasing.”

Though the Space Needle has had authorization from the union to implement stand-alone raises since 2013, management has instead used the pretense of impasse to couple the raises with other proposals that Space Needle workers have found to be unacceptable in bargaining.

The proposal that the Space Needle is unilaterally implementing does not address workers’ need for job security protections and imposes unprecedented barriers to communication between workers and union representatives.

“These employees are asking for security. They don’t know what’s going to happen in a year or two years,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell.  “These folks have given their blood, sweat and tears, their resources, their life towards serving and they do their jobs quite well. We need security.”

“Their fight is our fight. Their fight is Seattle’s fight. And we stand with them every step of the way,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

Councilmembers Nick Licata and John Okamoto were unable to attend Tuesday’s event but each sent a letter to Space Needle CEO Ron Sevart in support of workers.

“At the Space Needle, we’ve learned that by standing together, we can win what is right and fair. We have a city and elected officials who support us in having real job security so that these good jobs stay that way. And we’re here today to make sure everyone knows that we’ll be in this one day longer, until we win the guarantee of job security,” said Chernichenko.

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.