A post-construction rendering of the tophouse of the Space Needle
A post-construction rendering of the tophouse of the Space Needle By Olson Kundig

Following the announcement that the Space Needle will undergo a multi-year, $100 million renovation, 150 Space Needle employees received a “warn letter” yesterday on the impacts the construction may have on their employment.

Employees who received the letter include servers, greeters, food runners, bartenders, line cooks and banquet cooks, among other positions. The Stranger has requested a copy of the letter and will update this post if we receive it.

Dave Mandapat, the Space Needle’s Director of Public Relations, said the recipients of the letter are employees anticipated to be "impacted" by the upcoming construction, which will include an 8 to 9 month closure of the SkyCity Restaurant, from September to May 2018.

The Space Needle's restaurant employees, valets and elevator operators are unionized through Unite Here Local 8, which represents unionized workers from a number of institutions, including Edgewater Hotel, Seattle City Lights and the Tacoma Dome.

Union leaders are set to meet with Human Resources sometime next week to bargain for "transition packages." Mandapat couldn't speak to what, exactly, this type of package will consist of, because it largely depends on what the union leaders discuss. An official date for that bargaining meeting has not yet been set.

Abby Lawlor, spokesperson for Unite Here Local 8, says a goal of the union is to maintain some level of healthcare benefits during the 8-to-9 month closure period.

Union workers reached an agreement on a contract with the Space Needle in the spring after years of negotiating. Because of this contract, Lawlor says, Space Needle employees are protected from layoffs during the renovations.

"We're optimistic and we hope the company will come into impact bargaining with respect for the workers involved," Lawlor said.

The Space Needle’s Chief Marketing Officer Karen Olson said, from the Human Resources perspective, the goal is to lessen the impacts of the construction on employees and retain as many of the current full-time staff as possible.

“We hire the best team members in Seattle,” Olson said. “Truly, we want to treat the team members well.”

Olson spoke to the high demand for restaurant and hospitality workers in Seattle, and said it’s in the Space Needle’s best interest to bring all their employees—some of whom have worked there for over 30 years—back to the Needle once the renovations are complete.

She added that while the renovations—which are the most significant to happen in the Needle's history—will cause a disruption to staffing, they are necessary to ensure the space age-themed landmark can still remain relevant all the way through its 100th anniversary, which is 45 years away.