Michael Hall, far left, lives with his parents and commutes two hours to work at the Space Needle because he cant afford housing nearby.
Michael Hall, far left, lives with his parents and commutes two hours to work at the Space Needle because he can't afford housing nearby. Joshua Kelety

Earlier today, more than 50 Space Needle workers and supporters gathered in front of the landmark with signs and a megaphone to ask their bosses for a raise. It's been nearly three years since non-tipped Space Needle workers last received one (that raise was $0.35), and in the meantime a National Labor Relations Board panel has found the Space Needle Corporation in violation of labor law for discouraging union organizing.

Several of the signs this morning read, "I can't live on less," a direct response to a tone-deaf budgeting webinar containing "live on less" advice that Space Needle workers received in January. "I mean, how can you say that to workers that you don't even know?" asked Michael Hall, a 7.5-year elevator operator who commutes two hours to work at the Space Needle from his parents' home. "Nobody I know that's a worker here really lives it up too much," he added. "We're spending our money on just basics."

This is the second time Space Needle workers have asked for a raise in the last few months, Hall said. Despite workers' protests and the NLRB ruling, the Greater Seattle Business Association gave the Space Needle Corporation the honor of "Corporate Leader of the Year" in February. (For unrelated reasons, the GSBA pointed out.)

Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant told Space Needle workers that the $15 minimum wage victory against the International Franchise Association was the writing on the wall.
Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant told Space Needle workers that the $15 minimum wage victory against the International Franchise Association was the "writing on the wall." Joshua Kelety

Seattle City Council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata showed up to the rally, too. Sawant told the crowd that yesterday's $15 minimum wage victory against a legal claim lodged by the International Franchise Association represented the "writing on the wall" and workers weren't going to back down.

The crowd, which also included Washington State Labor Council president Jeff Johnson, took their demands for a meeting with executives and a raise to the Space Needle Corporation offices on 6th Avenue North. There, Dave Mandapat, director of public relations at the Space Needle, passed out a notice saying that the Space Needle would not entertain "drop in" meetings with workers. "This isn't a question of whether or not we understand your demands and passion related to the expired agreement with Local 8—we hear you clearly," the statement read. "We don't feel this is the issue at hand."

Zuryash Majid, also far left, says she cant afford to take her kids--aged 7, 11, and 14--out for ice cream when housing prices are skyrocketing but Space Needle wages remain stagnant.
Single mom Zuryash Majid, also far left, says she can't afford to take her kids—aged 7, 11, and 14—out for ice cream when housing prices are skyrocketing but Space Needle wages remain stagnant. Joshua Kelety

The issue at hand, Mandapat's statement said, is a contract proposal from 2013—one that would have included wage increases. He criticized Local 8 for not allowing workers to vote on it at the time, or since. Abby Lawlor, a researcher from Local 8, said that workers saw other parts of the proposal as unacceptable. She also underlined the fact that the company could give workers raises without contract negotiations. "Anything they say contrary to that is a distraction," she said. "They could give it today if they wanted to without further negotiation with the union."

Workers eventually filed out of the Space Needle Corporation building after being declined a meeting on the spot. Zuryash Majid, a widowed mother of three who's worked at the Space Needle for 15 years and makes just a little more than $15 an hour, was carrying a folded statement she didn't get to read to Space Needle management.

"My rent has gone up $816 [since 1999], and childcare has gone up from $60 to $274," she read to The Stranger outside the building. "The money I make does not cover my living anymore. I cannot take my kids to the movies or out for ice cream. By now they've stopped asking me to do fun things because they know we can't afford it."