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Hyatt workers go on strike

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 8:18 a.m. HST, Sep 8, 2011

Unionized Hyatt Waikiki workers went on a week-long strike this morning.

Local 5 workers walked off the job and on to a picket line at 3 a.m. this morning.

Hyatt management issued a statement saying the hotel continues to operate normally with non-union workers and management filling in.

The job action is part of a campaign in four cities -- Honolulu, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles -- against the hotel chain, said Cade Watanabe, a spokesman for hotel workers’ union Unite Here! Local 5. About 3,000 hotel workers are on strike nationwide against six hotels, Watanabe said.

Watanabe said nearly 500 union workers -- including housekeepers, bellmen, front desk and food and beverage employees -- have been without a contract since June of last year.

In June, unionized Hyatt workers voted to call for a public boycott of the hotel. Other job actions included a one-day strike and civil disobedience by union members in front of the Hyatt.

Watanabe said the main issue in the negotiations is the subcontracting of jobs. The seven-day strike is meant to move the boycott forward, he said.

“We’re disappointed that the union leadership is holding our associates’ new contract hostage in order to gain leverage for an organizing effort at non-union Hyatt hotels on the mainland,” Hyatt Waikiki general manager Jerry Westenhaver said.

Watanabe said working conditions are also an issue and housekeepers have been injured on the job.

“It’s not just about wages and benefits. Its much more than that,” Watanabe said. “It’s about workers being able to come together against what we believe is the worst employer in the industry,” Watanabe said.

Westenhaver said management offered Hyatt workers a wage and benefit package identical to the offer to Hilton and Starwood workers that was accepted by union workers at those hotels in March.

“It is dismaying that the union is refusing to allow our associates to enjoy the pay and benefits increases they have earned and deserve,” added Westenhaver. “We look forward to a quick resolution to this action so our associates can return to work and continue to provide for their families.”

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