David Thyer, president of a Seattle-based development company, announced a change in plans to a new high-rise hotel in downtown Seattle. The developer is proceeding with a smaller project that will have fewer guest rooms, less meeting space and, notably, no affordable housing. Thyer cited “fairly relentless” opposition by Unite Here Local 8, a hospitality workers’ union, to the project.
It all started when the project gained the opposition of the union after the company refused to agree, in advance, on terms that would make it easier for hotel workers to unionize. Thyer explained that catering to the union’s demands would sell out “future employees who may not want to join the union.”
The original, larger project would have included “new public space around the hotel and up to 160 apartments that would have been rented to one-person households that make $46,100 or less a year. The income cap for the apartments for two-person households would have been $52,650.” The new project does not contain the affordable housing units.
Union officials reject the claim that the company scratched its original plans as a result of union pressure, but agree that the “larger hotel would have been a better outcome.” The Puget Sound Business Journal,
“[The union official] said unionization is only one reason Unite Here has been appealing city approvals related to the project. Unite Here also is concerned about traffic and other project impacts.
“Thyer isn’t buying that, saying union is looking to increase its membership, not to have the best project built.”
Certainly, due to union opposition, the developer would have faced serious roadblocks in the form of City Councilmembers Nick Licata, Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien in receiving necessary approvals from the Seattle City Council. Licata, Sawant and O’Brien—for all their calls for affordable housing—are, in the end, union allies and would therefore likely block the project on the union’s behest.