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News / Clark County News

Hilton, workers’ union at loggerheads

Employees say they want better pay, affordable health benefits

By Andrea Damewood
Published: October 11, 2011, 5:00pm

The Hilton Vancouver Washington and its employee union are locked in heated negotiations over salaries and health care.

The contract between the Hilton and its workers expired in June, and its union-represented workers are charging that the hotel fails to pay fair wages or provide affordable medical coverage.

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.

Commissioner says Vancouver wants county to forgive $4.4 million Hilton debt.

Commissioner says Vancouver wants county to forgive $4.4 million Hilton debt.

Local union leaders have said housekeepers make little more than minimum wage, and the hotel hasn’t offered better terms for some time. 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. Karly Edwards said she holds both hotel management and city government responsible for looking the other way as hotel workers struggle to make ends meet.

The union’s next planned demonstration will be 7 p.m. Monday at Vancouver City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St.

“Workers at the Vancouver Hilton need decent wage increases and health care. City council has tried to avoid taking care of this issue for years, claiming they have no responsibility for the hotel,” an email notice read. “Join us in telling city council that the time has come for them to do right by the Hilton hotel workers.”

The Hilton manages the property, while the city owns it — meaning the city is not involved in negotiations with the hotel union, said Lloyd Tyler, chief financial officer for the city of Vancouver.

Eric Walters, general manager of the Hilton Vancouver, which employs a total of 150 workers, has told The Columbian 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.”