The last thing I was wrote before heading to the True Diversity Dinner last Friday was a lengthy post called Unity & union-busting about what I’d learned since last Wednesday about the struggle by workers at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel for a fair contract. If you haven’t already, please read that post. This is an ongoing issue.
Unite HERE Local 878 represents workers at several Anchorage hotels including about 200 at the Anchorage Hilton. As described in that earlier post, Hilton workers have been trying since August 2008, when their last contract expired, to negotiate for a new contract. But Kentucky-based Columbia Sussex, which took over the Anchorage Hilton in 2006, has been dragging its feet as much as it can, while simultaneously imposing — unilaterally — new demands on the workers, including increased workloads without additional pay. For example, workers who once were previously expected to clean 15 rooms in a day are now expected to clean 17 rooms per day — and if you’ve ever cleaned a hotel or motel room, you know that’s imposing quite a bit more work for no additional compensation. Workers are also being asked by management to pay a far larger share of their health costs.
I knew that Local 878 workers would be picketing outside the Hilton on Friday, so I parked at the Post Office Mall so I could stop by and take photos. (Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana v2.5 also got some photos; I’ll try to get his up later too, since he’s given me permission. Phil Munger of Progressive Alaska got photos earlier in the day — you can see one in his Busy Friday Recap post, posted on Saturday.)
I also got a chance to talk with one of the workers, Dave, where he stood outside the entry way with flyers about what union members were fighting about. He mentioned that Columbia Sussex is pulling the same tactics at several other of its hotels, and also pointed out that if Columbia Sussex succeeds in breaking the union at the Anchorage Hilton, there’s a chance that other Anchorage hotels that currently have reasonable working standards and compensation packages will also begin to degrade their treatment of workers.
Even as hotel workers spent hours picketing in the rain outside the Hilton on Friday, the Alaska Republican Party fundraiser and the Mayor’s Unity Dinner were being held inside — a sign of the regard both events’ organizers have for how unfair working conditions affect Anchorage workers and their families. Remember how Mayor Sullivan said that his dinner was supposed to reflect the common values shared by everyone in the Anchorage community — “the importance of family, quality education for our children, and safe, vibrant neighborhoods”? Remember when I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how “Sullivan’s veto [of the Anchorage equal rights ordinance] makes it clear that he only deems some families important — and mine’s not one of them”? Seems the the hotel workers’ families aren’t important to him either.
This is unfair treatment that both the Alaska Republican Party and the Mayor’s Unity Dinner upheld by crossing picket lines on Friday. And so with anyone who patronizes the Hilton until the hotel’s management settles a fair contract.
How can you help? First, if you’re traveling, dining, or planning an event, check the list of properties owned by Columbia Sussex and don’t patronize them. In Anchorage, that’s the Anchorage Hilton and the Anchorage Marriott. Second, pass the word on to other people who care about fair workplace treatment. Third, show Local 878 your support.
One great way to show your support is by joining with union members on Wednesday, September 30 for Anchorage’s first Hotel Workers Rising March. They’ll be assembling at the Sheraton Hotel at 4:30 PM and marching from there to the Hilton. I’m going to see about getting off work early that day so I can participate.
Here’s the other photos I took on Friday of the picketing. You can view this slideshow fullscreen by clicking on the fullscreen icon; you can also see them at my Flickr photostream.