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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 31, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 13
At last! Space Needle settles with workers after six years
Section One
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At last! Space Needle settles with workers after six years

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Ending a bitter labor dispute lasting almost six years, management at the Space Needle has reached a settlement with UNITE HERE Local 8, the union that represents more than half of the 300 workers at the iconic landmark.

In a March 28 'Joint Statement,' the two sides announced they'd 'reached a tentative agreement for a new labor contract.'

The previous contract expired in 2011. Since then, workers have struggled to get Space Needle management to bargain in good faith. The National Labor Relations Board - the agency charged with enforcing federal labor laws - found the Space Needle guilty of multiple violations, including retaliation against pro-union workers and discouraging workers from participating in the union.

In 2015, management unilaterally proclaimed talks at an impasse and proceeded to implement the contract offer they'd put on the table, including the first wage increase their workers had seen in three years. While workers celebrated the money, they still persisted in their other demands - on several occasions invading Space Needle corporate offices.

In spite of the contentiousness of the dispute, both sides proclaimed themselves satisfied by the settlement.

'One of our biggest concerns with the previous offers was that they did not include enough job-security protections for our members,' said Erik Van Rossum, President of UNITE HERE Local 8.

'This tentative agreement includes strong job safeguards during the upcoming Century Project renovations. And with this agreement, our members won't have to worry about construction length impacting their rights to return to their jobs.'

For several years, the Space Needle company has been talking about a major remodeling project, including installing double-decker elevator cabs and a glass floor in the restaurant. Workers were worried that they might be laid off during construction and then not rehired - to be replaced by non-union employees working for lower wages.

With the pending agreement, members won't have to worry about construction length impacting their rights to return to their jobs, Van Rossum said.

The union's bargaining committee unanimously recommended that workers ratify the contract, and a vote will be forthcoming, union leaders said.

Space Needle management expressed relief that the long labor dispute had been resolved.

'The Space Needle employs some of the most talented workforce in the Pacific Northwest and provides them with one of the strongest wage and benefits packages in the tourism and hospitality industry,' said Jeff Wright, Chairman of the Board of the Space Needle.

'We are committed to being a great place to work, and look forward to increased accord and alignment for all our Team Members.'

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