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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 20 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 38
Space Needle on trial - Seattle landmark's management accused of violating workers' rights
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Space Needle on trial - Seattle landmark's management accused of violating workers' rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) brought the Space Needle to trial on September 17, on a number of unfair labor practices complaints filed by their employees. The trial is expected to last a week.

The NLRB is the federal agency charged with enforcing U.S. labor law. While union activists say laws generally favor employers, the Wagner Act of 1935 specifically outlaws a number of 'unfair labor practices' that employers may not use against workers. The Space Needle is accused of several such practices in connection with a two-and-a-half-year contract battle with their employees and UNITE HERE Local 8, the union that represents them.

NLRB attorneys charge that Space Needle management is interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees to discourage them from union participation, in violation of the Wagner Act.

Specific violations charged to Space Needle management include unlawfully encouraging employees to resign from the union or not pay their dues, interrogating employees about their union participation, and failing to recall union supporters to work after seasonal layoffs.

SEEKING LIVING WAGE
Space Needle employees say that management has overstepped legal bounds in reaction to the ongoing contract dispute with UNITE HERE.

'I have worked at the Space Needle for over 23 years, and I have never seen management act this way in union negotiations,' says Lee Plaster, a banquet captain at the Space Needle.

'They thought that this time they could bust the union and intimidate workers like me, but it has been almost three years and we are going to stay strong until we get justice, and a fair contract.'

The Space Needle workers are seeking living wages, continued access to their union health care, and job protections allowing them to keep their job if their department is subcontracted to a nonunion company.

The union also notes that leading investors in the Space Needle Corporation are also part owners of Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac, one of the most outspoken opponents of the SeaTac living wage initiative.

DIVERSE MEMBERSHIP
UNITE HERE Local 8 represents about 4,000 workers in the hospitality industries of Washington and Oregon State, including concentrations of LGBT people and workers of color, both native- and foreign-born.

Local 8 signed on to an amicus brief supporting marriage equality in the Andersen case as early as 2006, and last year they endorsed Referendum 74, which brought full marriage equality to Washington. The union's National Executive Board unanimously endorsed marriage equality in 2008.

In 2007, Local 8 won the first hotel contract in the country to explicitly protect Transgender workers, and now language protecting gender identity and expression is standard in its contracts.

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