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It’s time for us to demonstrate, not celebrate!

SEATTLE — The next six months will bring millions of tourists to Seattle, but tourism workers have nothing to celebrate.

This Saturday, April 21, the city elite will continue their  Space Needle 50th anniversary festivities by celebrating the “Next Fifty” years. The Space Needle will be having a huge private gala that evening, while their workers continue to fear the outsourcing of their jobs.

TAKE A STAND! — The Space Needle employees, members of UNITE HERE Local 8, and their supporters plan to send a message Saturday that the next 50 years should stand for a future where workers share in the city’s prosperity. Please join them for a rally Saturday, April 21 from noon to 1:30 p.m. See Labor, community demand ‘Justice at the Needle’ (Mar. 16) for more information about these workers’ struggle.

Meanwhile, across the city, nearly 1,000 hospitality workers are fighting for a future with living wages, affordable health care, and job security. These workers come from the Space Needle, the Edgewater, the Seattle Hilton, the Washington Athletic Club, and now, the Hyatt at Olive 8.

While Seattle’s downtown hotel sector sets for widely projected growth and profitability, its workforce endures poverty wages, pain and injury from unsustainable management practices. Those are the findings of a new report released Wednesday by Puget Sound Sage, a regional economic policy advocacy center.

“Our Pain, Their Gain: The Hidden Costs of Profitability in Seattle’s Hotels” reveals how industry practices keep workers in poverty with low wages and inadequate health benefits, requiring public dollars to subsidize their health care costs, their food and housing.

“We found that hotel workers, who are mostly people of color and family breadwinners, not only earn wages at poverty level,” said Howard Greenwich, research director for Puget Sound Sage. “They endure pain and injury at higher rates than almost any other industry — including construction and coal mining. Meanwhile, industry profits are rising rapidly.”

Economic hardships and hazardous conditions endured by hotel employees are disproportionately borne by workers of color and by immigrants. Pain and injury are disproportionately borne by women, who comprise most of the hotel housekeeping workforce. While living paycheck to paycheck, some even qualify for public assistance. Yet, the work is grueling. A typical housekeeper cleans 15 rooms a day, strips over 500 pounds of soiled linen, replacing it with 500 pounds of clean linen, lifting a mattress over 60 times a day.

“I’ve seen people quit hotel jobs because their bodies can’t take the work,” said housekeeper Jian Hua Wu. “And it’s not just hard; it’s dangerous. When workers are forced to go faster and faster, we get hurt.”

Joe McDermott, King County Councilmember
 and Chair of the county’s Board of Public Health, is calling on elected officials and the private sector to set the region’s tourism and hospitality industries on the right path.

“This report sets forward principles and a framework and we’re going to study these and see if we can’t take the ‘high road’ in hotel and hospitality — a sector that’s set to expand rapidly in the near future,” McDermott said. “A healthy region sustains its families, invests in workers and supports businesses that help create healthy communities.”

Read the whole report, and don’t forget to support Space Needle workers at the Saturday, April 21 rally from noon to 1:30 p.m. For more information, visit

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!