Workers protest inside Vancouver Hilton

VANCOUVER — Several members of UNITE HERE Local 9 were joined by leaders of the Washington and Oregon AFL-CIO and Southwest Washington Central Labor Council Oct. 14 in their battle for a fair contract.

The contract for approximately 114 workers expired in June. The union is seeking modest wage increases and affordable health insurance. The hotel operates under a lease with the City of Vancouver, which owns the hotel and convention center. Management points to the economy and slow business as reasons why it can’t provide more compensation.

“Many of these workers are paid  minimum wage and can’t afford health insurance,” said Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council.

Dodson led workers and union leaders, including Oregon AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Barbara Byrd, singing labor songs in the front lobby of the hotel (photo right). Afterward, Dodson presented General Manager Eric Walters (photo above) with a ceremonial $110,000 check that “they WON’T get from WSLC” if the Hilton doesn’t bargain a fair contract with their employees. The state labor federation has booked its 2013 state convention in Vancouver.

“If there’s a labor problem, we won’t be here,” Dodson said. “This check represents just a portion of what will be spent in this city during convention week.”

Shannon Walker, president of the SW Washington Central Labor Council, says both hotel management and city government are responsible for the workers’ plight. “The city, which owns this property, says it’s not their responsibility. We think they should get involved moving these negotiations along,” Walker said. “Whatever wages these workers get are spent directly in our community, which helps everyone.”

The event was part of the AFL-CIO’s America Wants to Work national week of action, a coast-to-coast mobilization of working people demanding action from government to promote a real jobs creation agenda.

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