This post is from the desk of The Midnight Sun Publisher Jim Lottsfeldt.
This year we have plenty of snow for the Fur Rendezvous and Iditarod start, no doubt. These winter festivities help us deal with cabin fever that comes along with Alaska winters and boosts our economy as tourists fill restaurants, shops and downtown hotels.
The downtown Anchorage Hilton hotel is usually one of the properties bustling with activity during the Rondy and Iditarod but this week the Hilton activity isn’t just in the banquet rooms or hotel lobby: It’s in court.
Many Alaskan’s know there have been problems in the downtown Anchorage Hilton for some time. And to be clear, the downtown Anchorage property is actually owned by a Kentucky-based company called Columbia-Sussex, not the Hilton Corporation.
The workers are represented by a union called UNITE HERE, whose members work predominantly in the hotel, food service, laundry, warehouse, and casino gaming industries. Workers cook and serve food, clean rooms and maintain the building. Some workers take second jobs to make ends meet.
Workers have called for a boycott of the Hotel, and various groups have honored the call not to use the facility for over 10 years now. Much of this action is because the workers have not had a raise other than minimum wage hikes or adequate health care coverage in more than 10 years. These are service industry jobs with hourly wages. It’s hard work and manual labor.
This brings us to the trial taking place this week. One long-time employee of the Hilton Hotel was fired in 2017 in alleged retribution for reporting to his union that he had found mold growing in two guest rooms. He sought help for himself and his coworkers because he was concerned how leaking water and mold might impact their health.
After the firing, the National Labor Relations Board Region 19 found sufficient evidence to support the Union’s claim to issue a complaint against the Hilton alleging a violation of labor law. In order to settle the case and avoid going to a trial, the Hilton owners Columbia-Sussex would be required to reinstate the worker. The owners refused and chose to go to trial. The case is being heard by an NLRB administrative law judge.
This is not the kind of business we need in Anchorage and this is no way to treat Alaska workers.
We hope the Anchorage Hilton owners, Columbia-Sussex, will be fair to workers and all who patronize the downtown hotels. Make it right, do it now, it’s the Alaskan thing to do.