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Latest News - February 2015

February 2, 2015
NLRB panel says Space Needle violated labor laws
By: Janet I. Tu

The Space Needle’s management violated federal labor law by engaging in practices aimed at discouraging workers from participating in or supporting a union, according to a ruling Friday by a National Labor Relations Board panel.

The three-member panel found that Space Needle LLC, manager of the privately owned Seattle landmark, engaged in unfair labor practices by distributing letters encouraging employees to resign from Unite Here Local 8, reneging on a prior agreement to resume deducting union dues from employees’ paychecks, polling employees about their attitudes toward the union and failing to recall two pro-union employees from a seasonal layoff.

The panel ordered the company to stop its anti-union activities among employees, pay the back dues it owes the union, and return the two employees to work with back pay  Space Needle management said it disagreed with the panel’s findings and would appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The dispute stems from a complaint filed in 2013 by Unite Here Local 8, which accused the Space Needle of anti-union efforts since a contract with the union expired in 2011. That contract was later extended into 2012  “We’re eager to see the matter resolved and for the workers to go back to work,” said Abby Lawlor, spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 8, the Pacific Northwest hospitality union that represents restaurant workers, greeters and elevator operators at the Space Needle.

Space Needle management said it believes “we don’t currently have the right or the obligation to force our team members to pay dues or to join a union without their approval.”  The company said it did not have approval from most of its employees to withhold dues from their paychecks, so it has not done so since the contract extension expired in 2012.

The union estimates the company owes “hundreds of thousands of dollars in back dues,” according to its statement.  The Space Needle employs up to 300 people, though that varies by season. The management company said about half are in positions represented by the union.

The union claims approximately 200 positions are represented by the union, with nearly 100 percent of those workers authorizing dues to be deducted from their paychecks before the Space Needle “unilaterally halted dues withholding,” Lawlor said.  Food and banquet workers at the Space Needle have been unionized since 1962.

The union has been seeking a new contract and says that in the last four and a half years, the company offered workers just one raise — of 35 cents an hour, two years ago.




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