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May 17, 2021

Senator Makes Controversial Appearance at Anchorage Hilton

There are two large hotels in Anchorage that are currently under boycott for mistreatment of workers – the Anchorage Sheraton and the Anchorage Hilton. On Tuesday, August 9, The Mudflats reported that three community leaders were expelled from the office of the General Manager of the Sheraton when they came to express the concerns of the community regarding the hotel’s labor practices.

And Friday, The Hilton was the site for the latest event in a long history of protesting and picketing. That day, Senator Mark Begich was slated to address the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA), and would have to cross the picket line to do it. The Senator arrived and entered the Hilton through a side door. There were repeated chants of, “Shame on Begich!” One woman shouted, “Only a coward sneaks in the side door!”

Once inside, and before he began his formal talk, Begich addressed the BOMA lunch crowd with impromptu remarks concerning his feelings on the Hilton, its management issues, the treatment of its workers and his philosophy of attending events in the boycotted hotel.

Before I start, I do want to say something, and I’ll be very frank with you. Rarely do I come to this hotel anymore because of their disagreements with workers who are working every single day here. There’s a huge disagreement they have with the owners, who are out-of-state owners of this hotel, and I’ll tell you there’s nothing I have experienced more than when I go to hotels, and see these workers working very hard. There’s not the greatest pay and benefits…

Just so you know, it’s very rare that I walk back into this hotel because of the way they’re treating their employees. It’s not the management that’s here, it’s the out-of-state management. I’ve had multiple conversations with them.

While we’re sitting here enjoying this great lunch, great food, we should give the employees there in the back a round of applause. (applause) And those picketers are out there because I’m in here, quite frankly.  So, I appreciate the work they’re doing, and like I said, I haven’t been in this hotel in four or five months, maybe longer. I can’t remember when the last time was.

Outside, the protest continued in support of UniteHERE Local 878,representing the hotel workers. President Marvin Jones explains the workers’ struggle against a company that refuses to bargain in good faith, and so far remains deaf to the working men and women that keep the business running.

You can read his compass piece about the practices of The Anchorage Sheraton in the Anchorage Daily News HERE.

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30 Responses to “Senator Makes Controversial Appearance at Anchorage Hilton”
  1. Susan Reilly says:

    Good conversation – nice to read polite discourse for a change. Just a note – not all Hilton and Sheraton hotels are under boycott. If you are preparing to travel, go to the UNITE HERE! web site and check out their list of hotels to be avoided. I am a proud member of the IAMAW and we hold events at unionized Hilton properties. Stay informed to help those who need it and support those who are represented.

  2. Desa Jacobsson says:

    This boycott is working. The Sheraton has lost over $600,000 so far. Whenever a boycott occurs, it takes two years to recover the losses. It was heartwarming to see the Catholic Priest (finally) doing the right thing for his flock. I wished all of you could have seen how this group conducted itself during their visit to the Sheraton. You would have been proud of them. The Yupik word for boycott is pronounced ” we-ta-thlu-kee” and it means, ” We don’t want anything to do with them.”

    How those hotels treat their staff is disgraceful and un-Alaskan. Please join the boycott and get at least five others to do so. A small effort by some is greater than a collossal effort by one.

    As an Alaskan, I refuse to sit quietly while a company from Texas treats Alaskans like this. If they persist, perhaps we can but Alaska in half…..and make Texas the third biggest state.

  3. bubbles says:

    this is such shame! the Hilton chains make so much money. why? because of the outstanding people who work there. no matter what hotel i stay in when i travel i always tip well when my room is immaculate and the service impeccable. it is only right to do so.

  4. Winski says:

    Hilton has ALWAYS been a staunch right-wing hack organization… I stayed in a LOT of Hilton chain hotels a few years ago as I was doing a USA drive-about and once I asked why I couldn’t get MSNBC on their televisions?? The manager of the hotel in Phoenix asked me to leave the hotel and never come back – immediately….

    And we’re paying these clowns to have a say in how we run our lives??? Lunacy..

    • Seriously! We were staying in a Hilton Garden Inn during the 2008 VP debates and I know I watched MSNBC. It must have been that particular manager and that you were in Phoenix. Still, that’s a rather odd response from a hotel manager – usually they are so eager to please so you’ll want to come back.

      • Winski says:

        Yup… Still, to this day, I have never heard a valid reason, not even from their HQ…. crickets…. This was at a Homewood suites… Maybe it was just because Hilton had just given millions to Grampy McSame… who knows… BUT, I ran into the same problem at an Embassy Suites in Santa Ana, CA… Didn’t get booted out of the hotel, but close…..

  5. beaglemom says:

    I understand both Senator Begich’s use of the side door (no one wants to cross a picket line if he/she respects the workers’ rights) and his statements to his audience but I do wish that, afterwards, he had spoken with the workers on the picket line. That would have solidified his support for the union members. Union members all over the country deserve our support in these very trying times.

  6. jimzmum says:

    Why not the front door so his comments could have been heard by all? I refuse to stay in a Hilton. I know the top management is gnashing their teeth, but I am one. One. Others join, and soon there is a multitude.

  7. Sen. Begich will be taking the main door into the DeBarr Denny’s on Thursday, to address the Anchorage Bartlett Club at their noon weekly luncheon. You can attend – please donate generously to this very pro-union club, if you come.

    He will take questions after he gives his talk, and I’m sure he will love answering why he didn’t come in the front door or parachute onto the rather small roof at the Hilton.

    Thanks for covering this, AKM.

  8. I lost my respect for Senator Begich about the third time I was lied to by him or his staff. Whatever he says or does is highly thought out and orchestrated. Any action may not reflect his actual views, only strategy. He has positioned himself in the middle to attract votes from the right. Going through the side door was a clear avoidance of having to talk directly to the actual people affected.

  9. John says:

    I travel a lot. I won’t stay at a Hilton or Sheraton chain until they treat their Anchorage workers with respect. But I have to do more and actually tell the owners that.

  10. Justafarmer – I’m a strong union supporter and I agree with you.

  11. justafarmer says:

    I’m with Albert and John on this.
    I think Sen. Begich did well to stand up for the hotel workers in his speech.
    Where he failed IMHO was going in a side door. He should have gone through the front door and, before he did, he should have addressed the protesters with similar remarks.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      I agree with you.

    • Writing from Alaska says:

      That would have been a good approach, but also could have gotten complicated with crowd response and all. I think he did pretty well – just imho.

      • justafarner says:

        as laurie said right at the top, was a thin line. But I think he could have made major points going through the front door and letting the workers know face-to-face that he was behind them.

    • lisa says:

      I think he did exactly the right thing. I have a lot of respect for Sen. Begich.

    • The side door is the only thing that seems an odd and perhaps not a good choice. I admire him for speaking up, and it sounds like he said more than just a passing sentence or two to make his point. Is the problem with Hilton in Alaska one that every Hilton hotel has? What a shame. We have stayed at some in Virginia and Tennessee that we really liked – the Garden Inn ones, especially. I’ll have to do some more checking, I guess.

    • North of the Range says:

      I agree, justa, that his remarks to the BOMA group about the workers was important. But he couldn’t really go in through the front door and talk to the workers outside unless he formally crossed the picket line, and respecting picket lines used to mean something.

      That’s what bothers me. In order to address the BOMA group, and make a statement to them about the workers’ situation, he had to disillusion and discourage those same workers on the picket line by slipping in the side door, kinda literally dancing around the issue.

      Maybe if he had come around the corner afterwards and talked individually with some of the picketers and showed some direct response to them that would have been better.

    • Wallflower says:

      To play devil’s advocate, to go in the front door would have been crossing a picket line, even if he did give a moving speech or shake hands or something. He might have feelings about that. If you support unions, these kinds of situations are never easy. I suppose he could have approached the picketers and asked them which was best, but he’s an elected official and probably isn’t willing to make himself look that vulnerable. (I don’t mean physically.)

  12. John says:

    It is hard to know what Senator Begich should have done. If he had stayed away, the message to the BOMA would have been “liberal Senator supports unions.” No big deal, and no one would have thought anything other than be upset at Begich for backing out of his speech. By showing up and speaking out against poor treatment of workers, he shows his supports workers, but is not in bed with the union management. Begich has some liberal bones in his body, but for the most part he is a moderate.

    On the other hand, he is exactly what the Rs say everyone should be. He started working in high school to help support his mother and siblings (his father, Representative Nick Begich) died in a plane crash. And he didn’t just get a job, he created a business and hired employees. He continued to create jobs throughout his business career. And because he worked alongside his employees, he understands what it is to work for a living. Probably says something about why he supports working families.

    • UgaVic says:

      John I have to agree AND I think that by doing this there will be more coverage of this issue. I also believe it put those who chose to hold their meeting at the hotel ‘on notice’.

      I recently attended a meeting and had to stay at the Hilton. It was not my choice but when talking to the people who booked my stay there, they pointed out that they were only using it as a last resort.

      Hopefully more and more organizations will do the same and the financial fallout will be felt still more strongly!

  13. Albert Lewis says:

    A fine line, Laurie? I thought he bent over backwards to praise and call attention to the hotel staff. Now, I’m writing from Outside, but I just got back from my annual trip to Alaska. Had a great time and renewed my connection with Denali, Talkeetna, Homer and the Kenai River, so even though I’m not an Alaskan – although my son and grandkids are Anchorage residents – I have to say that the senator spoke against my expectations … he was speaking nicely and in praise of the hotel staff, while I’d expected him to take a Republican attitude that everyone on the staff was replaceable.

    • laurie says:

      I simply meant he was putting himself in a delicate situation that required thoughtful handling. If he can bring attention to the plight of the workers it is good. If his appearance there is seen as proof that the striking workers and their demands are inconsequential to the continuing business of the hotel, it might hurt their cause. Just my opinion.

  14. laurie says:

    It seems to me that he is walking a very fine line here.

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