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AFTRA Suspends Convention to Join UNITE HERE Local 8 Rally for Better Jobs

Posted July 22, 2011

SEATTLE, WASH. (July 22, 2011) — The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO - a national union of more than 70,000 recording artists, broadcasters, actors, singers, dancers and other performers who work across the spectrum of media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings and digital media - announced that more than 200 member Delegates and staff who are attending the 63rd AFTRA National Convention in Seattle this week paused their National Convention at 5:00 p.m. today to join with members of UNITE HERE Local 8 at their Day of Action! Better Jobs rally outside of the Westin Seattle.

AFTRA members joined hundreds of hotel workers and community supporters, as well as King County Councilmember Larry Gossett, Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata and other local leaders at the rally to show their support for UNITE HERE Local 8 hotel employees who are employed at the Westin Seattle. More than 400 workers at the Westin are locked in a difficult and prolonged contract negotiation with hotel management.

Seattle Local President Steve Krueger observed: "Major hotels like the Westin are the gateway to the city - the place where visitors form their first impressions. The workers at the Westin have made their house one of the best on the West Coast. They work hard to make their guests welcome, and have made concessions to ensure the hotel's profitability in bad times."

During their morning session today, Delegates welcomed UNITE HERE Local 8 Secretary-Treasurer Erik Von Rossum, chief negotiator for the union, and UNITE HERE International Vice President Rick Sawyer to brief them on the situation and the latest status of the negotiations. AFTRA Delegates signed a petition in support of the hotel workers and will deliver more than 300 signatures to the hotel's General Manager, Elisabeth James. The petition reads:

"As the members of the American Federation of Television Radio Artists (AFTRA), we selected the Westin Seattle hotel as the location of our national convention because its workforce has the opportunity to organize for their rights at the workplace. We expect workers at the Westin Seattle and all Starwood hotels to be able to organize free of harassment and intimidation, to have job security, and to share in the economic recovery that hotels have enjoyed. We also expect that the hotels we patronize provide full protections to immigrants and LGBT workers from discrimination and harassment. We urge the Westin Seattle to settle a fair contract soon."

At 5:00 p.m., Delegates temporarily suspended their Convention business, and processed through the hotel lobby out to the street carrying signs of support for the hotel workers while chanting, "We say Union. You say Power!"

AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon, AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, AFTRA National Vice President and New York Local President Holter Graham (Army Wives), AFTRA Los Angeles Local President Gabrielle Carteris (Beverly Hills, 90210), AFTRA Los Angeles Local Board member Morgan Fairchild (Falcon Crest), AFTRA National Board member Marcia Strassman (Welcome Back, Kotter) and AFTRA National Board member Robert Newman (Guiding Light) took to the stage with other AFTRA members in support of the hotel's workers.

President Reardon said: "We are joining the rally today for better jobs in King County's hospitality sector to show AFTRA's support for our sisters and brothers in UNITE HERE Local 8 who are locked in a difficult and prolonged contract negotiation with the management of the Westin Seattle. We are calling on the management of the Westin Seattle to provide job security, livable wages and safe workloads, among other important protections for their workers."

"The hotel industry is projecting a return to record profits in the very near future and the management of the Seattle Westin is attempting to lock workers into a long term recession-era contract," said AFTRA NED Hedgpeth. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to voice and show our support for housekeepers, servers, dishwashers, cooks, front desk agents and other workers at the Westin Seattle."

Said Krueger: "These workers want to see the hotel continue to be a leader in Seattle's hospitality industry - but they also expect their employer to treat them fairly."

AFTRA has been in communication with UNITE HERE Local 8 for months prior to the convention. In a letter provided to AFTRA on July 18, UNITE HERE's Von Rossum said: "We are extremely pleased that AFTRA is having this convention at the Westin and that the delegation will be joining the rally in front of the hotel."

UNITE HERE Local 8 represents more than 3,800 workers in Washington State. Negotiations started in June. 

For more updates from the convention, and video of the speakers, click here.

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet and other digital media. The 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists of AFTRA are working together to protect and improve their jobs, lives, and communities in the 21st century. From new art forms to new technology, AFTRA members embrace change in their work and craft to enhance American culture and society. Visit AFTRA online at www.aftra.com.

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