Wednesday, October 7, 2015         

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Union workers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village taking strike vote

By Allison Schaefers


Hilton Hawaiian Village union workers, who have been working without a contract since June, are taking a strike vote today.

The vote, which will affect 1,400 UNITE HERE! Local 5 workers, is part of the national Hotel Workers Rising campaign that links union workers in about 15 states, said Local 5 Spokesman Cade Watanabe. Unionized workers in Chicago hotels overwhelmingly approved a strike vote in August and workers in San Francisco also are slated to take a strike vote today, Watanabe said.

"We are expecting that workers here also will authorize this next step in our campaign," he said. "It reflects the sentiment of working families in this community. We won't let large corporate, mainland owners ruin our jobs like they did our economy."

Cerberus Partners LP, a New York investment group, has owned the majority stake in Starwood's Kyo-ya Hotels & LLP since 2004. Similarly, Hilton is owned by Blackstone Group, one of the nation's largest private equity firms, and the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and Waikiki Marriott are both owned by subsidiaries of Goldman Sachs.

While Local 5 and the hotel owners agreed to a four-year contract in 2006 that included wage increases of up to $2.40 an hour for nontipped employees, as well as improved housekeeping workload standards and continued family medical benefits, this year's efforts are more strained. Relations between Local 5, which represents some 6,000 Hawaii hotel workers at Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Starwood branded properties, have been contentious.

 In July, some 100 hotel union demonstrators and their supporters were arrested during a sit-down in front of the Hyatt Regency Beach Resort & Spa that disrupted traffic on Kalakaua Avenue in front of Waikiki Beach. And, less than two weeks ago, Hyatt workers said they went on a one-day strike to send a message to the hotel's management and owners that workers want better wages, conditions and benefits.

While Hawaii's union workers point to improved occupancy as a reason to protect jobs, beef up staffing levels and at least maintain wages and benefits, hoteliers are crying poverty. Hawaii hotel managers and owners say that their properties have not fully rebounded from the steep drops of the last few years and that profitability could still be years out. Costs have continued to rise rapidly, yet room rates continue to be anemic, they said.

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