Home Statewide Politics Anchorage Hotel Workers Stage Protest Over Mold Problems

Anchorage Hotel Workers Stage Protest Over Mold Problems

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Captain Cook and Sheraton hotel workers joined workers of the downtown Anchorage Hilton on Wednesday to rally for swifter action on what they say is an ongoing problem of mold at the Hilton.

Workers at all three hotels are represented by UNITE HERE Local 878.

According to a July press release by Local 878, “[o]n April 4, 2014, the Hilton identified three strains of mold in three out-of-service guest rooms:  aspergillus/penicillium; chaetomium; and ulocladium.  All three grow on materials such as damp sheetrock and wallboard.  Leaking pipes was [sic] identified as the source of the moisture.”

Subsequent to those findings, Local 878 asked the Hilton to document all of the training and protective equipment it provided workers to deal with mold exposure. The union says it did not receive a response.

The hotel identified 29 rooms with mold issues in April. In May, it listed 48 rooms with water damage.

On May 13, workers filed a complaint with Alaska Occupational Safety and Health (AKOSH) alleging the Hilton had provided them with insufficient training and equipment to deal with mold. AKOSH conducted an inspection of the hotel on June 23.

The AKOSH investigation is not concluded, and workers say they are frustrated with the amount of time it is taking for the Hilton to address their complaints. They allege they have yet to receive requested training or safety equipment.

“We want Occupational Safety and Health to get documentation from the hotel of repair work they’ve done,” Local 878 President Marvin Jones said in a press release. “We want them to interview the maintenance workers involved in repairs that are due to mold or moisture problems.”

Workers at the Hilton voted in 2009 to place the Hilton under boycott. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed complaints against the hotel for unfair labor practices. Though the hotel settled the charges, it remains under boycott for unilaterally changing working conditions, including the number of rooms maids must clean, while failing to reach an agreement with the union.

Workers also represented by Local 878 voted to place the downtown Anchorage Sheraton under boycott. The Sheraton has been found guilty of numerous unfair labor practices, although one NLRB decision was vacated by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Noel Canning earlier this year. That ruling must be reconsidered by the Board.

On Wednesday, Jones told rally attendees, many wearing surgical masks to symbolize the respiratory hazards of mold, that the issue is not just about worker safety; the union is also concerned about the safety of hotel patrons.

Reviews on Tripadvisor.com indicate that mold continued to be an issue for the Hilton at least through the summer. One review at the end of May describes mildew on the walls of the steam room.

August seems to have been a particularly bad month for mold at the Hilton, possibly because higher volumes of tourists encouraged the hotel to utilize more rooms. Mold in the showers is a recurring theme.

“Our room had mold and mildew EVERYWHERE. [F]or the price we paid I would never stay in this hotel again,” wrote one reviewer on August 9. Six days earlier, a reviewer reported the room had a “moldy smell. Woke up with a cough.”

A one night stay for October 2 was priced on Hilton.com at $229.