The impending sale of the Seattle Hilton had unionized hotel workers fearing for their jobs, but a new collective bargaining agreement announced today between UNITE HERE Local 8 and the current owner, the R.C. Hedreen Company, has put these concerns to rest. The new contract includes wage increases, affordable health insurance premiums, safer workloads for housekeepers, and a guarantee of worker retention as a condition of any sale of the hotel.
"Richard Hedreen showed again his longstanding leadership in our community, doing the right thing for workers and for Seattle," Local 8 executive officer Erik Van Rossum said in a press release. "The agreement protects the livelihoods of a hundred Seattle area families, and that will have a positive effect throughout the region."
Local 8 says that a typical full-time Seattle Hilton hotel worker makes about $30,000 a year plus full family medical benefits, compared to a median wage of only $23,000 across all Seattle hotels, barely above the federal poverty line. Conservatives might argue that its union contract puts the Seattle Hilton at a competitive disadvantage, but for the unionized workers cleaning the rooms and carrying the bags, it's the only thing that guarantees them a living wage and a secure job.
For the life of me I'll never understand why so many Americans begrudge our least empowered workers the right to collectively bargain on their own behalf, especially given the crucial role the labor movement played in building the American middle class.