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Anchorage Hilton should end labor dispute

  • Author: Zack Fields
    | Opinion
    , Tom Begich
    | Opinion
  • Updated: 6 days ago
  • Published 6 days ago

The Hilton Anchorage Hotel is viewed Saturday morning, March 7, 2015, from McKinley Tower.

Congratulations to employee members of Unite HERE, Remington Hotel Corporation and management of the Anchorage Sheraton. After a decade-long strike, the recently ratified collective bargaining agreement represents a victory for the company, employees, patrons and Anchorage. Now the Anchorage Hilton — whose management continues union-busting and other labor rights violations — should follow the Sheraton’s lead and sign a contract with the employees’ union.

Collective bargaining agreements are important tools to ensure the rights of workers, especially those in underpaid or typically low-wage sectors, are protected from abuse. The agreements ensure that the rights of those workers to be paid a living wage in a timely fashion, in a safe work environment, and to have a voice in their workplace.

Although the story of the Sheraton is a victory for Anchorage and for all workers here, there is still another boycott that remains ongoing. The Anchorage Hilton remains locked at an impasse with its own employees. After 30 years of offering its employees good working conditions, affordable health care and living wages, in 2008, new management tried to break the union while eviscerating employees’ wages and benefits.

The Anchorage Hilton survived the 1964 earthquake and was originally operated by the Hilton Corporation, with ownership changing in 2007. Following management's refusal to negotiate, employees at the Anchorage Hilton asked customers to boycott the hotel as a measure of repeated failures by management to deal in good faith or address persistent issues of mold, flooding, and rodents. These have been documented in repeated instances by workers, the State of Alaska Occupational Safety Administration, the Municipality of Anchorage and even federal regulators.

The National Labor Relations Board — even under President Trump — ruled that management hadn’t been negotiating in good faith, and that they must respond to offers to negotiate from the union. Today, the urgent issues of workers rights, fair and living wages, and affordable health care remain unsolved, and many workers are forced to put up with meager wages to use for expensive rent, health care or rely on public assistance to survive. For a decade, Hilton workers have endured a pay freeze and relentless assaults on their labor rights and workplace safety. Customers have suffered from mold and other filth in the building as a result of Columbia-Sussex’s bottom-feeder business model.

The Anchorage Hilton is owned by Columbia-Sussex, a corporation that has chosen to disinvest from the hotel and it's employees. Now is the time for Columbia-Sussex and the Hilton to follow the example set by its downtown neighbors at the Sheraton. Until the Hilton negotiates a contract with Unite HERE and ends a decade of union busting, we will continue to boycott the Hilton and urge others to do the same. Mistreatment of Alaska workers is unacceptable, and many locally owned hotels have shown how to earn a good profit while treating their workers well.

We’re glad the Sheraton is on the right track, and urge the Hilton to start following the law and work with its employees' union.

Sen. Tom Begich and Rep. Zack Fields serve in the Alaska State Senate and Alaska House of Representatives, respectively. Their districts include both the Sheraton and Hilton.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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