Downtown Vancouver Hilton seals new deal with workers

Union leader says more improvement needs to be made

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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A new labor agreement has been reached between management and workers at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, although a union representative says more improvement is needed.

The hotel said Wednesday that it reached a new collective bargaining agreement with the local affiliate of Unite Here — which represents 116 workers at the hotel — that “provides for regular wage increases and expands eligibility for health benefits so more of our employees can have the security of employer-provided health insurance.”

The announcement caps negotiations over pay and benefits that grew contentious, with the union charging that the Hilton Vancouver lacked decent wages and affordable medical care.

The union also held public demonstrations to highlight its issues, including outside the doors of the downtown Vancouver hotel in June 2011.

The new agreement runs through June 30, 2014.

Eric Walters, the hotel’s general manager, said in a news release that the agreement is “good for employees, good for the hotel and good for our community.”

The hotel’s statement provided no specific details about wage or benefit packages. Contacted by phone Wednesday, Walters declined to comment beyond the hotel’s news release.

Karly Edwards, a leader of the local affiliate of Unite Here -- a union that represents workers in the U.S. and Canada including in the hotel, gaming and food service sectors -- declined to discuss specifics of the agreement. But she said it moves the workers’ situation at the Vancouver Hilton “in a positive direction” and that people should continue to do business with the hotel. “It’s a good hotel,” she said.

But the situation needs to continue to improve, she said. While workers gained better access to the health care that’s available, Edwards said, they still lack affordable family medical coverage,

Operating agreement

The Hilton, which employs a total of about 150 workers at its downtown Vancouver site, is responsible for management of the facility under an operating agreement between

the hotel and the Downtown Redevelopment Authority, a special-purpose government entity appointed by the city council.

Edwards said that in two years, when the new agreement expires, she wants to see the Downtown Redevelopment Authority “seriously consider” the additional improvements that need to be made for workers at the hotel.

Until the authority does that, Edwards asserted, those additional improvements won’t be made.

In August 2011, Lloyd Tyler, chief financial officer for the city of Vancouver, told The Columbian that the city wanted a successful negotiation between the hotel and its employees but that “we don’t have a direct role in that process.”

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com