June 19, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 25

Community & Editorial

Point of Pride

Workers’ struggle at the Space Needle points to solidarity among LGBTQ, immigrant and labor communities

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Marriage Equality passed in Washington state in 2012, legally protecting many LGBTQ families. Now it’s time to ensure we can support our families financially. A growing number of LGBTQ, immigrant rights and labor organizations are joining together to ask the Space Needle to fly the rainbow flag during Pride celebrations and settle its ongoing labor dispute with workers. This collaboration represents what the pride flag stands for — fairness, equality and human dignity for all — and coincides with the 2013 pride march theme, “Equality: Past, Present and Future.”

Immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community make up a high percentage of workers in the tourism industry in Seattle and are therefore disproportionately affected by conditions in the hotel and restaurant sector.

Similar to fast food employees, who last month drew attention to their working conditions by going on strike, workers in Seattle’s hotel industry earn an average of less than $24,000 per year and too often lack access to health insurance and other essential benefits, according to a study released last year by Puget Sound Sage.

As a result, workers who often spend 60 or more hours per week at two or more jobs must still rely on publicly funded programs to access health care, affordable housing and other essential needs, further straining already-stretched city, county and state budgets. LGBTQ and immigrant communities in Seattle and around the country experience higher rates of poverty and are more likely to be uninsured than the national average, according to a study by the Williams Institute. Access to a living wage and affordable health care in the hospitality industry directly impacts LGBTQ and immigrant communities.

The rainbow flag, a symbol of pride, justice and fairness in the LGBTQ community, flew on the Space Needle in 2010. In 2011, the Space Needle flew the flag after compelling the LGBTQ community to raise $50,000 for four LGBTQ organizations. In 2012, during the drive for marriage equality, the Space Needle refused to fly the rainbow flag.

This year’s Pride celebrations are an opportunity for the Space Needle to reverse course. Wait staff and kitchen staff at the needle have taken a first step and come out in support of flying the rainbow flag during Pride by wearing rainbow buttons at work recently that read “Fairness for Everyone.”

A number of organizations, including PrideFest, Entre Hermanos, Ingersoll Gender Center, Pride At Work, Puget Sound Sage, Social Outreach Seattle, Seattle LGBT Commission, The Seattle Lesbian, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Seattle Chapter, Washington Community Action Network, Trans Lives Matter, El Comité Pro-Reforma Migratioria y Justicia Social, Gender Justice League, Casa Latina, UNITE HERE Local 8 and LGBTQ Allyship are joining the effort.

You can help, too.

On June 30 at 3 p.m., join the LGBTQ, labor and immigrant communities for a Pride demonstration at the Space Needle. Let’s come out for LGBTQ and immigrant economic justice at the needle and for all restaurant and hotel workers in Seattle.

The Space Needle is an icon of Seattle. If it were to settle its ongoing labor dispute and fly the rainbow flag, this would be a powerful symbol of support. It would show that all communities — including LGBTQ, immigrants, labor and business — can come together to push for a common goal represented by the flag: pride, dignity, prosperity, equality and justice for all.

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