Strike might affect dentists’ return for isle convention
With 16,500 registered attendees and guests wrapping up the state’s largest convention of the year in the middle of a hotel workers strike, the American Dental Association left town without committing to another visit — a booking the Hawai‘i Convention Center typically counts on for Waikiki.
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With 16,500 registered
attendees and guests wrapping up the state’s largest convention of the year in the middle of a hotel workers strike, the American Dental Association left town without committing to another visit — a booking the Hawai‘i Convention Center typically counts on for Waikiki.
Convention center officials made a pitch for the ADA to return, but the group declined to make an immediate decision. The meeting held from Oct. 18-22 was disrupted by striking hotel workers and news that an ADA member and his fiancee were involved in last week’s helicopter crash on the Kaneohe sandbar.
Hawaii Tourism Authority board member Kelly Sanders said Jim Goodman, ADA’s senior vice president of business and conferences, told him the “labor activities affected them very negatively. He felt it would affect their decision, which is unfortunate.”
Strikers distributed leaflets during an ADA event at the convention center and at the group’s awards ceremony at the Waikiki Shell. They also picketed Kuhio Beach on Oct. 20 and there were reports some of the convention hotels were unable to provide their normal level of service.
Teri Orton, general manager of the AEG-managed Hawai‘i Convention Center, told the HTA board Thursday she had dinner with Goodman and that he felt ADA was “a little targeted” because of its size, and “being used as leverage had left a bad taste in his mouth.”
Some 2,700 unionized
hotel workers went on strike Oct. 8 when negotiations reached an impasse with Unite Here Local 5 and Kyo-ya Hotels &Resorts, which owns the Marriott-managed Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and Sheraton Maui.
On Monday, in an unrelated incident, an ADA member and his fiancee were injured when the Novictor Helicopter they were in went down after the pilot suffered an undisclosed medical condition. The couple have since returned home.
The strike had a far larger impact on the convention and the ADA’s relationship with Hawaii, whch goes back decades. In 1999, ADA’s
Hawaii meeting drew 30,000 delegates, the convention center’s largest event since it opened 20 years ago.
“We presented an offer, but in light of the strike and all of that, they said let’s revisit in January,” Orton said. “Most groups don’t sign right there, but we were hopeful that they would consider signing before they left.”
Local 5 spokesman Ikaika Hussey said the union reached out to the ADA and the Hawaii Dental Association to advise them of the
labor dispute but never received a response.
“It wasn’t personal,” Hussey said.
Local 5 issued a statement late Friday night after returning to the bargaining table with Kyo-ya saying, “We took a step forward tonight. There is a significant distance remaining, but we know that we’re walking with a strong community of workers and allies.”
Kyo-ya declined to comment on the local negotiations.
Union representatives also met with Kyo-ya Saturday and locals were slated to meet Monday and Tuesday with Marriott to discuss national issues such as automation. In the meantime, picketing will continue 24/7.
Orton told the HTA board she’s hopeful the convention center will retain ADA’s business, although, in general, she’s concerned the strike could exacerbate ongoing challenges.
The center sustained a $442,400 loss of net income in September, she noted, and is now expected to end the year with a $2.37 million loss. That’s $413,000 more than the nearly $1.96 million net loss the center was anticipating before the strike.
Orton said September bookings from CK International, a 1,500-delegate group, and Art Hawaii, a 12,000-delegate group, did not materialize. Center estimates also were affected when the Global Tourism Conference was moved from September to October.
On a positive note, Orton said the convention business is on pace by year’s end to generate 232,000 hotel room nights — its 2018 goal. HTA voted Thursday to extend AEG’s contract another year.
Still, the center’s challenges go back to January when some groups were spooked by Hawaii’s false missile alert — a reminder of heightening tensions with North Korea. Missile concerns gave way to flooding in Kauai, four months of the Kilauea volcanic eruption on the Big Island, Hurricane Lane, Tropical Storm Olivia and now the strike.
Local 5 started picketing at the convention center on Thursday because it hires staff for large group events from HiEmployment, a company that has been supplementing the workforce at strike-affected hotels with temporary workers willing to cross picket lines.
On Wednesday and Thursday, strikers picketed The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach. The property isn’t a union hotel, but Local 5 said it’s a Marriott brand and has been sending Ritz-Carlton employees to augment staff at striking hotels.
“The strike has had a negative impact on tourism. It’s not good press. The visitors have saved up to come here and their experience is not the same. The noise in Waikiki is so loud,” Orton said.