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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 17, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 20x
Space Needle workers reach out to community
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Space Needle workers reach out to community

Union seeks to build support ahead of next round of talks

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Workers at Seattle's landmark Space Needle, who have been working more than two years without a contract, say they are planning new tactics to enlist community support in their ongoing dispute with management.

At a May 16 meeting with several LGBT and immigrant community organizations, Space Needle employees said that in coming weeks they will roll out an online petition, videos, and other ways to mobilize community support.

UNITE HERE Local 8, the union that represents Needle employees, and Space Needle management go into a new round of mediation on May 28. The previous mediation, in March, failed to produce a settlement.

INTIMIDATION ALLEGED
Union officials say they are growing frustrated at the lack of progress in their negotiations with management. The union also charged that management has ratcheted up attempts to intimidate employees.

'In the last few months, the company has escalated its anti-worker, anti-union campaign,' UNITE HERE community organizer Jasmine Marwaha said.

'It's like a war zone in there,' Space Needle employee John Heckendorn agreed. 'It's a brutal place to work.'

Heckendorn, one of the Needle's most senior employees, said he fears for his job despite of his years of seniority, because management insists on retaining the right to subcontract work to nonunion companies.

NO CHIHULY JOBS
'The Space Needle also runs [the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit], with a restaurant and banquet facilities,' UNITE HERE organizer Michael Wilsey noted. 'They have promised our members access to jobs there, but so far they haven't hired one.'

Instead, Wilsey said, Space Needle management directs banqueting contracts away from the unionized Space Needle to the nonunion Chihuly facilities, resulting in a 30% reduction in work for the banquet workers represented by the union.

The other significant sticking point in negotiations centers on wages, Wilsey said.

'On the wage issue, we're only a few cents apart,' he explained, 'but our demand is area standard, nothing more, nothing less.' Area standard means the prevailing wage for similar kinds of work in similar high-end restaurants in the area.

FLY OUR FLAG!
The May 16 meeting was organized by UNITE HERE and LGBTQ Allyship, and was attended by Casa Latina, El Comite (the Committee for Immigration Reform and Social Justice), Ingersoll Center, Pride At Work AFL-CIO, and the city's Civil Rights Commission and LGBTQ Commission.

Several of the organizations previously sent letters to Space Needle management asking them to sign a fair contract with their employees, and to fly the Rainbow Flag at Pride as a symbol of respect for the many LGBT workers in the hospitality industry.

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