Union members picket Space Needle in solidarity with Space Needle workers.
  • Jasmine Marwaha | Unite Here Local 8
  • Members of various local unions picketed the Space Needle today in solidarity with Space Needle workers.

Space Needle Corporation CEO Ron Sevart has launched a PR campaign to protect public views of the Space Needle. Now if only he'd care as much about protecting the jobs of his own employees.

“The Space Needle is currently demanding that the City Council protect views of the Needle from South Lake Union,” says Erik Van Rossum, President of UNITE HERE Local 8, the union representing nearly 200 Space Needle workers. “They want a sense of security from the city, and yet they have not given their workers any security.”

That's the issue at the heart of an ongoing labor dispute between the Space Needle and its restaurant and catering workers. Workers are demanding a no-subcontracting clause—the exact same protections the union has successfully negotiated with a number of downtown hotels, including the Westin, the Hilton, and the Washington Athletic Club. But Space Needle management has adamantly balked.

Unionized workers fear that the Space Needle will subcontract catering jobs to its non-union subsidiary at Chihuly Garden and Glass, although management insists that they have no plans to do so. "We have to ask ourselves," says Local 8 organizer Jasmine Marwaha, "Why are they fighting so hard, when all we're asking for is a slightly stronger guarantee against something they claim they have no intention of doing?"

The Space Needle has been a union shop since it opened a half a century ago, and employees have generally been both happy and loyal. But employee relations have steadily deteriorated over the past year as management has grown more stridently anti-union.

After months of refusing to even negotiate with union representatives, the Space Needle finally agreed to federal mediation, which starts later this month. Today's rally in support of Space Needle workers was intended to bolster negotiations. "It doesn't need to escalate," insists Marwaha, who says that the union has no intention of striking "right now." Now if only management would respond in the same spirit, we won't need to worry about picketers blocking our beautiful Space Needle views.