UNITE HERE Applauds Anchorage’s Action to Protect Tourism Industry from Mold

New ordinance brands hotel mold a public nuisance

ANCHORAGE, Alaska–UNITE HERE reminds hotel operators that a new city ordinance takes effect today that classifies hotel rooms with significant visible mold as a public nuisance. (Click here to read the full ordinance.)

The ordinance passed the Anchorage Assembly unanimously last month. Alaska’s climate can make buildings more susceptible to developing mold.

“Visitors spend over $798 million annually in Southcentral Alaska,” said Assemblymember Eric Croft, who sponsored the ordinance. “Hotels are one of our most important resources to get visitors to stay in Anchorage and keep them coming back.”

Marvin Jones, president of UNITE HERE Local 878, said the city’s hotel worker union supports the ordinance because it “protects local Alaskans who use the city’s hotels for meetings and special events, and helps ensure the success and sustained growth of the industry on which our livelihoods depend.”

The ordinance empowers the Municipality to protect the public’s health from mold using a complaint-driven process. This includes applying public building enforcement standards, assigning fees, ordering inspections, or issuing emergency orders. The Municipality will be able to order the removal of mold and the repair of sources of moisture and issue warnings or fines for initial violations. Hotels may be forced to stop operating if they continue to receive subsequent violations and fail to respond adequately.

According to the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, “It is safest to treat any indoor mold growth as a ‘potential health hazard’ that needs to be corrected. Molds should be removed and the moisture problem that led to mold growth should be fixed.”

The ordinance includes whistleblower protections for individuals who report mold, like hotel guests and hotel workers. Such protections may not have come soon enough for one employee at the Hilton Anchorage. One day before the ordinance passed, Norberto “Bill” Rosario was let go from his job of 10 years after he took pictures of mold in guest rooms and showed those pictures to his union. UNITE HERE Local 878 has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board demanding Mr. Rosario be reinstated with full back pay and benefits.

The public can report significant visible mold in public accommodations at www.muni.org/mold.

Read more:

http://www.ktva.com/story/36620783/new-hotel-mold-ordinance-lets-people-report-problems-to-city-health-department

http://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Unions-challenging-recent-firing-of-longtime-Hilton-employee-451353893.html

 

 

Workers and supporters rally at the Hilton Anchorage on March 6. The union has contracted with a building inspector in an effort to better understand the causes of mold growth reported at the hotel in 2014 and to prevent its recurrence.

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!”

Workers and supporters rally at the Hilton Anchorage on March 6. The union has contracted with a building inspector in an effort to better understand the causes of mold growth reported at the hotel in 2014 and to prevent its recurrence.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.

Alaska Capitol Building. By Gillfoto. CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Legislators Pledge To Honor Hilton Boycott

Alaska Capitol Building. By Gillfoto. CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Gillfoto (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Alaska State Legislature wrote to the owner of the Hilton Anchorage regarding the hotel’s recently settled State of Alaska office of Occupational Safety and Health citations and pledge to honor the ongoing worker-called boycott of the hotel. Signatories are Senator Bill Wielechowski (D–H), Senator Johnny Ellis (D–J), House Minority Leader Chris Tuck (D–23), Representative Scott Kawasaki (D–1), Representative Max Gruenberg (D–16), Representative Andrew Josephson (D–17), and Representative Matt Claman (D–21). Click here to download their letters to William Yung III, president of the Columbia Sussex Corporation in Kentucky.

Members declare victory for workplace safety after complaint and state inspection

Mold Complaint Gets Results at Hilton Anchorage

Workers declare victory for workplace safety after complaint and state inspection

Members declare victory for workplace safety after complaint and state inspectionEmployees who called attention to mold at the Hilton Anchorage have won an important battle in their fight for safety on the job.

A group of workers at the Hilton Anchorage grew concerned last spring whether possible exposure to mold while working at the flagship downtown hotel could potentially impact their health.

Some of them lodged a complaint with the State of Alaska Occupational Safety and Health office last May, which opened what turned out to be a five-month inspection.

Over the ensuing months, AKOSH conducted three separate mold sampling protocols that “indicated the presence of mold to varying levels of count,” according to a December 12 letter the office sent to the union that represents Hilton Anchorage workers. AKOSH issued citations in December 2014, alleging violations of workplace safety laws focused mainly on hazard assessment and protective equipment.

Finally, earlier this month, the Hilton Anchorage settled the citations with AKOSH. The settlement lightened the citations and penalties, while containing a limited non-admissions clause, but the hotel agreed to correct the alleged violations as modified by the settlement.

“The people at the Hilton Anchorage want to do their jobs right,” said Marvin Jones, president of the union. “We commend the State for doing a thorough inspection and taking this issue seriously.”

Employees at the Hilton Anchorage have been asking potential guests to boycott their own hotel for the past six years because the company will not agree to a fair contract. The boycott is ongoing.

Learn more about the worker complaint, safety inspection, and final agreement at www.moldreportak.org.

Stachybotrys

On the Issue of Mold at the Hilton Anchorage

Mold of genus Stachybotrys

Image by Brendon Rawlings – Bulk Mold Sample. Lic. under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Because Local 878 represents employees of the Hilton Anchorage, we would like guests to know about some important developments on the issue of mold at the hotel.

On January 6, 2015, the Hilton Anchorage settled citations from the Alaska Occupational Safety and Health agency.

AKOSH cited the Hilton Anchorage for alleged violations of workplace safety regulations on December 12, 2014, after workers had complained in May about possible mold exposure.

AKOSH conducted mold testing during their investigation. In their December 12 letter to Local 878, the agency’s chief of enforcement wrote:

At the time of the inspection (6/20/2014, 9/26/2014, and 10/31/2014), three separate sampling protocols were conducted at various times throughout the hotel. All sampling results indicated the presence of mold to varying levels of count. Citations have been issued.

The AKOSH citations focused on the duty of the Hilton Anchorage to conduct a workplace hazard assessment and to select proper protective equipment for its employees. Hotel management disputed the allegations. As part of its settlement, the hotel agreed to pay reduced penalties of $2,145 and did not admit to violating the cited regulations.

The Hilton Anchorage itself has acknowledged mold at the hotel. On May 6, 2014, hotel management reported working to fix 48 guest rooms where it found mold or the “possibility of water damage,” while indicating that air quality was safe.

Over the following months, the hotel hired outside contractors to perform repairs on the rooms where it had found mold or the possibility of water damage. Hotel management reported on October 10 that repairs had been completed in mid-September. But then on December 3, 2014, the hotel disclosed that further testing on October 23 and November 12 revealed an “elevated mold score” in Room 1030. The hotel reported that it had taken the room out of service for remediation, again by outside contractors.

For more information about what the Hilton Anchorage says it has done to address mold or conditions conducive to mold, or to leave a report on your own experience at the Hilton Anchorage, please go to www.moldreportak.org. You can also contact the general manager, Bill Tokman, at [email protected] or 907-265-7118.

UNITE HERE Local 878

UNITE HERE! Local 878 represents about 1,100 workers in the hospitality industries of Alaska. Local 878 members work at many job sites – including hotels, restaurants, food service outlets and laundries. Local 878′s parent union, UNITE HERE!, represents over 250,000 hotel, food service, and gaming workers throughout the US and Canada.

In 2004, our UNITE HERE brothers and sisters created a movement called Hotel Workers Rising!  The goal is to make hotel jobs, good, middle-class jobs.  Because so many of us work for the same big companies, we realized that we should fight for our rights on a larger scale by combining our efforts.  In doing so across state and national borders, we have successfully increased our strength and not only won better working conditions, wages and benefits for ourselves, but also new organizing rights for our non-union workers.

Learn about our current, local struggles in Alaska!

Mission Statement

It is our mission to provide all Hospitality Workers in the great State of Alaska with the opportunity to enjoy all of the benefits of belonging to a Union.  We believe every worker deserves a safe working environment, job security, a living wage, health benefits and a voice on the job. In order to accomplish this, Local 878 intends to:

  1. Organize non-union workers
  2. Negotiate strong union contracts
  3. Empower union members to help lead their union

Office Location and Contact Information:

Physical Address:
530 E. 4th Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501

Mailing Address:
PO BOX 100564 Anchorage, AK 99510

Main Office: (907) 272-6591
Toll Free: (800) 478-4373
Fax: 907-277-8595

Office Hours:
9:00am-4:30pm Mon-Fri

You can receive general information or pay your dues anytime during office hours.

Union representatives are usually in the field advocating for other members, so if you would like to set-up a time to meet with one of them to discuss a grievance or other matter, please call the main office number.

Boycott the Hilton Anchorage!

Staff Say Hilton and Safety Agency Slow To Respond to Mold Concerns

As investigation continues, workers remain in the dark about mold

Boycott the Hilton Anchorage!Hotel workers wearing lab coats, rubber gloves, dust masks, and safety goggles demonstrated outside the Hilton Anchorage Wednesday afternoon to protest what they consider to be an insufficient response by the Hilton to their concerns about mold. Workers, through their union, also submitted a letter to the Hilton asking for an update on management’s own program to remediate mold and moisture in the hotel. 

Employees filed a state health and safety complaint in May alleging they worked around mold without adequate training or protective gear. Five months later, the state’s investigation is ongoing, but workers say the Hilton has still not provided the training and equipment they are seeking.

Ralliers asked guests to add their own observations of mold or moisture to help gather data for the state investigation.

In April 2014, some Hilton Anchorage employees reported symptoms they think may have been caused by working around mold at the hotel. The hotel reported May 6 that it had found mold or possible water damage in 48 guest rooms. At the time, the hotel advised workers to seek proper medical diagnosis and treatment if they have health concerns regarding mold exposure.

Hilton employees submitted a complaint on May 13 to the Alaska workplace safety administration alleging insufficient safety equipment, training, and knowledge of the issue to safeguard their health. The complaint remains under investigation. The Hilton has denied unsafe conditions.

The Hilton Anchorage has implemented what it calls an “aggressive” preventative maintenance program to address mold and moisture. Workers want to ensure that worker education and equipment are part of that program. Hilton documents show the hotel has been addressing leakage issues since 2012.