Union Hires Building Inspector in Latest Effort to Protect Workers Against Potential Mold Exposure
Building trades, mayoral candidate rally at Hilton Anchorage for “Safety First!”
Local 878 announced today that we have contracted for an independent building inspection of the hotel in an effort to better understand the causes of mold growth reported during 2014 and to prevent its recurrence.
Visible and audible from the Fur Rondy Carnival on Third Avenue, today’s noontime rally brought dozens of local building trades workers in bright orange hard hats and Anchorage mayoral candidate Ethan Berkowitz to picket outside the Hilton.
“We’re proud to stand with the workers of the Hilton Anchorage,” said Aaron Plikat, a plumbing specialist and president of the South Central Alaska Building Trades Council. “We all deserve to work safe every day.”
The State of Alaska office of Occupational Safety and Health cited the Hilton Anchorage in December for allegedly failing to assess the workplace for potential hazards and to select appropriate protective equipment for employees whose work could bring them into contact with mold. In January, the hotel settled the allegations and paid a fine without admitting wrongdoing.
Hilton employees say a more thorough evaluation of potential causes of mold at the hotel is needed to prevent its recurrence. Representatives of UNITE HERE Local 878 note that testing conducted after the date the hotel stated repairs in affected guest rooms were complete indicated a continuing presence of mold in some areas.
“We acknowledge the Hilton’s statements that they have taken steps to prevent or minimize the likelihood of mold growing,” said UNITE HERE Local 878 President Marvin Jones. “Even so, we are left to wonder why, if Room 1030 was repaired in September, the hotel needed to repair it again as of this past December?”
The hotel stated on October 10, 2014 that they had completed all repairs to 48 potentially water-damaged guest rooms in mid-September of that year. But on October 23—less than two weeks later—the hotel found an elevated mold score in a room listed as having been previously repaired. The hotel informed the employees through their union about the elevated mold score in the previously repaired room on December 3. Alaska Occupational Safety and Health also detected the presence of mold in some areas when the agency conducted sampling at the hotel on October 31.
A group of workers at the Hilton Anchorage grew concerned last spring whether possible exposure to mold while working could potentially impact their health. Since then, the workers, the Hilton, and Local 878 have been in communication about what the Hilton says it has found while addressing mold or conditions conducive to mold.
Last month, Local 878 requested access to the hotel by a building inspector. Federal labor law gives employees or their union the right to gather information about working conditions, including the safety of the building in which they work. Hotel management has agreed to cooperate.
UNITE HERE Local 878, which represents over 150 employees at the Hilton Anchorage, executed its contract Friday with Cool Air Mechanical, Inc. of Anchorage to perform a building inspection at the Hilton Anchorage.
A complete timeline of the workers’ complaints, state investigation, and hotel communications related to mold and condition conducive to mold growth at the Hilton Anchorage is available at www.moldreportak.org.