SEATTLE – Amidst news of the impending sale of the Hilton Seattle Hotel, the R.C. Hedreen Company – the hotel’s current owner – agreed to the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement yesterday with UNITE HERE Local 8, the union representing nearly 100 workers at the hotel. This agreement includes a guarantee that workers will keep their jobs when the hotel is sold. The terms of the contract also include wage increases, affordable health insurance premiums, and safer workloads for housekeepers.
The Hilton Seattle put the hotel up for sale in September 2011, causing immediate concern for its longtime workers, who feared their jobs would be sold out from under them.
Chuck Cruise, a bellman for over 30 years, including 6 years at the Hilton Seattle, is breathing easier knowing he can continue to rely on his job. “My wife and I depend on our medical insurance for our lives. If we didn’t have my job, we’d have nothing.”
Chuck did not look forward to the prospect of entering the job market again. “I know I wouldn’t find a job quickly in this economy, especially one that would pay a living wage and cover my family’s medical bills.”
At the Hilton Seattle, a typical full-time hotel worker makes approximately $30,000 annually with full family medical coverage, among other benefits. By contrast, the median wage for a Seattle hotel worker is barely above the federal poverty level, amounting to $23,000 annually, often without affordable health insurance. A recent report from Puget Sound Sage, a regional economic policy advocacy organization, further discusses the poverty working conditions of hotel workers across Seattle, and is available at www.pugetsoundsage.org/hotelreport.
“The union helped my coworkers and me stay strong to fight for our jobs,” says Chuck. “I’m glad we could work out an agreement with the R.C. Hedreen Company that keeps us working and living a decent life.”
“Richard Hedreen showed again his longstanding leadership in our community, doing the right thing for workers and for Seattle,” says Erik Van Rossum, the executive officer of UNITE HERE Local 8. “The agreement protects the livelihoods of a hundred Seattle area families, and that will have a positive effect throughout the region.“
The signing of the new agreement, which will carry over to the new owners, also marks the end of the Hilton Seattle boycott, called by workers last September.
According to the agreement, the retention of the current workers and continued application of the terms of the new contract will be a condition of any sale.
For more information, contact Jasmine Marwaha, UNITE HERE Local 8, 206-963-6458, firstname.lastname@example.org