Unions - driving wages down and businesses out since, oh, forever

Espresso stand owner pleads case to keep Sea-Tac spot

Six hefty notebooks held "testimonials" from 4,000 customers of Elmer's Flying Eagle Espresso stand at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, pledging support and pleading for the renewal of a lease that ends New Year's Eve.

The port commissioners needed no convincing, actually. The Flying Eagle, started 10 years ago by Elmer, a single mom, to put her bright son through pricey Lakeside School, has been soaring for years. It brings in highly sought revenue that makes the airport less dependent on cash-strapped airlines, and has soothed many a customer waiting for baggage, family, friends or lost luggage.

Yet despite this acknowledged win-win, the Flying Eagle's owner and workers are entering their busiest time of the year knowing the business may cease to exist unless arbitration scheduled for Dec. 30 can break an impasse.

Elmer, loath to leave a spot airport officials have deemed too congested for latte, and reluctant to sign a contract requiring her employees to join a union, has sued the union UNITE HERE Local 8, as well as the Port of Seattle and its chief concessionaire, HMS Host.

Ms. Elmer on her employees:

Elmer does not believe the site is dangerous or even as crowded as it was before the 2001 terrorist attacks. She said she is not obstinate, but is trying to help her mostly female employees, some of whom are single parents.

"I pay my employees $9 an hour, and $11.50 after three years -- more than union wages," Elmer said. "I thought Washington was a right-to-work state; it's not my place to say to my employees, 'you have to be in a union.' It's up to them to come to me if they want to be in a union."

Ms. Elmer, I'm sorry to say, Washington State is not a Right To Work state.

Written by Andrew Ittner in misc on Sun 19 December 2004.