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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 8, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 19
The Space Needle is at it again: New unfair labor practice charge filed
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The Space Needle is at it again: New unfair labor practice charge filed

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A labor union activist has filed a new unfair labor practice complaint against her employer, the Space Needle.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency charged with enforcing federal labor laws, found the Space Needle guilty on five separate ULP charges in January.

Jessica Severance, an elevator operator at the iconic Seattle landmark, charges her employer with retaliating against her for her union activities. Severance was extensively quoted in a February 27 SGN article on the ongoing labor dispute at the Needle.

The retaliation 'stemmed from the [SGN] article, possibly, and from my union activities,' she told SGN. 'I was targeted for my union affiliation.'

UNITE HERE Local 8, the union that represents Space Needle workers, has been fighting the Space Needle for three years to sign a new contract. Workers say they haven't gotten a raise since their last contract expired.

Only a week after being quoted in SGN's February 27 article, Severance was called down to the company office for what her bosses called a 'coaching session.' It turned out to be a nightmare, she recalls.

'Since it was a 'coaching session,' I sat down with them without asking for my union rep to be present,' which would have been her right, she explained.

Her immediate manager and the company's operations director took her to task for putting her hands in her pockets, not smiling at guests, and failing to 'transform their experience' at the landmark.

'The 'coaching session' turned out to be them berating me,' Severance continued. 'I tried to defend myself, but I couldn't form articulate thoughts.'

Severance had a written warning placed in her personnel file. The following week, the union led a delegation to the Space Needle's corporate office to protest the write-up.

'Our operations director said that HR looked at the file and decided the 'coaching session' was non-disciplinary, so they refused to remove it from my file,' Severance says.

The Space Needle is owned by the Wright Family, descendants of the founders of both the Howard S. Wright Construction Company and PACCAR Inc. Ironically, co-owner Howard S. Wright III served as the co-chair of Mayor Ed Murray's Economic Inequality Advisory Committee which recommended the city's $15 per hour minimum wage ordinance.

UNITE HERE Local 8 represents some 5,000 workers in hospitality, restaurant, and related industries in the Pacific Northwest.

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