The battle over what constitutes a fair wage has found a local arena at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.
Union workers and managers at the hotel and convention center are clashing over pay and benefits as they attempt to reach new terms after the most recent contract expired at the end of June.
Unite Here, which represents workers in the U.S. and Canada who work in different industries -- including the hotel, gaming and food service sectors -- represents 114 workers at the hotel in downtown Vancouver.
Karly Edwards, a leader of the local affiliate of Unite Here, said the Hilton Vancouver lacks decent wages and affordable medical care. Housekeepers make little more than minimum wage, she said, and the hotel hasn't offered better terms for some time.
What's more, Edwards said, housekeepers and dishwashers at the hotel chain's site in Vancouver make roughly $3 less an hour than their counterparts in Portland.
The union has held public demonstrations, including outside the doors of the Vancouver hotel on June 30, to highlight its issues. Edwards said she holds both hotel management and city government responsible for looking the other way as hotel workers struggle to make ends meet.
Eric Walters, general manager of the Hilton Vancouver, which employs a total of 150 workers, said the hotel offers workers a "very good" compensation package, including health and retirement benefits.
"It's difficult to compare our wages to other cities because we collect different revenues," he said of the comparison to Portland. Walters added: "When you take a look at compensation for union positions, the wages we pay are competitive."
The Hilton 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, according to Lloyd Tyler, chief financial officer for the city of Vancouver.
Tyler said the city wants a successful negotiation between the hotel and its employees but that "we don't have a direct role in that process."
<i>— Aaron Corvin</i>