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Hotel workers protest Hyatt working conditions

Complaints about housekeeping jobs and a stalled contract draw union members

By Allison Schaefers

LAST UPDATED: 2:26 p.m. HST, Aug 5, 2011

Members of Unite Here Local 5, the hotel workers union, filled the sidewalk in front of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa to protest working conditions with a bed-making skit designed to call attention to housekeeper complaints.

The action, which coincided with protests and strikes at nine other Hyatts throughout the nation, is the most recent organized by Local 5 since its contract with the Waikiki hotel expired on June 30, 2010.

Last month, Local 5 Hyatt workers voted to join 17 other Hyatt hotels across the country in a consumer boycott of Hyatt properties. In the last year, workers at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki have participated in a civil disobedience, a one-day strike and other pickets and rallies in front of the Hyatt and one in the property's lobby, said Cade Watanabe, a spokesman for Local 5.

Hyatt hotel housekeepers in Waikiki and seven other cities across the U.S. also are awaiting a decision from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on a November complaint that they filed, reporting repetitive-motion and other kinds of injuries sustained on the job, Watanabe said.

"Hyatt has eliminated jobs, replaced career housekeepers with minimum-wage temporary workers and imposed dangerous workloads on those housekeepers who remain," Watanabe said. "Now housekeepers across the U.S. are standing up and speaking out, saying, ‘We will no longer suffer in silence.'"

Hyatt said that it has offered contract proposals identical to wage and benefits packages Unite Here has accepted from other hotel companies, such as Hilton Hawaii and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. However, Hyatt said that local union leaders have rejected every one of the proposals from Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa and continue to put their energies "toward unproductive street theatrics in the name of solidarity."

"The main obstacle to completing these agreements is the union's mainland effort to get Hyatt to surrender its nonunion associates' right to a secret-ballot election to decide whether they want union representation," said Jerry Westenhaver, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa.

Westenhaver said Hyatt is committed to continuing good-faith negotiations and looks forward to working with the union to resolve any remaining issues.

"The union's national strategy of blocking local agreements is keeping our Hawaii associates from earning higher wages, Hyatt-paid health care coverage and enhanced benefits," Westenhaver said.

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