by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
The management of Seattle's iconic Space Needle met with members of the Seattle LGBT Commission on April 3, to discuss the Needle's long-simmering labor dispute with its employees and its refusal to fly the Rainbow Flag during Pride.
At the end of March, the commission and seven LGBT community organizations sent letters to Space Needle CEO Ron Sevart, supporting a fair labor agreement for employees at the landmark, who have now been working for almost two years without a contract.
Those organizations included PrideFest, Equal Rights Washington, LGBTQ Allyship, Entre Hermanos, Ingersoll Gender Center, SAGE, and Pride at Work AFL-CIO.
NO PROMISE ON OUTSOURCING
According to UNITE HERE Local 8, the union that represents Space Needle employees, the final sticking point in negotiations is management's stubborn refusal to promise they will not outsource jobs to nonunion employers. Management has also resorted to illegal intimidation and retaliation against employees, the union charges.
According to Debbie Carlsen, one of the organizers of the letter-writing effort, Sevart chose to reply only to the letter from the city's LGBT Commission, inviting them to a meeting. Sevart, Space Needle owner Jeff Wright, Space Needle lobbyist Lynn Claudon, and City Council member Tom Rasmussen attended, along with commission members.
At the meeting, Carlsen said, LGBT Commission co-chair Sabina Neem asked Sevart point blank if he would guarantee the rights of his employees to a fair contract.
"No, I will not," Sevart is reported to have replied. "I don't want to be beholden to anyone."
FLAG QUESTION UNANSWERED
Space Needle management also failed to make any specific promise to fly the Rainbow Flag in June, Carlsen said.
Although most issues that would go into a labor contract have been settled, including nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers, Space Needle employees say they are worried about their job security if the Needle is allowed to give work to nonunion contractors.
The Wright family, which owns and built the Space Needle, is notoriously conservative. Jeff Wright was a major financial supporter of failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna.
In contrast, UNITE HERE is one of the country's most democratic and LGBT-friendly unions. "UNITE HERE, a union representing over 250,000 hospitality and manufacturing workers across North America, is committed to full equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered (LGBT) people," the union says on its website.
A HISTORY OF FIRSTS
Local 8 publicly supported marriage equality as early as 2006 with an amicus brief in the Andersen case before the state Supreme Court. UNITE HERE's national executive committee unanimously endorsed equality in 2008.
In 2007, at Seattle's Westin Hotel, UNITE HERE Local 8 won the first hotel contract in the country to explicitly protect Transgender workers, and that language is now standard in all of its contracts. While similar language has already been approved at the Space Needle, those and similar protections are at risk if management is allowed to hire nonunion contractors who are not bound by a UNITE HERE contract.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!