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Hotel workers ratify contract to end 51-day strike

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Allison Schaefers and Diane S.W. Lee
Hotel owner Kyo-ya offered striking hotel workers $6.13 per hour in pay and benefit increases over four years in a new contract today that ended a 51-day-old strike.
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Local 5 union president Gemma Weinstein reacts with fellow hotel workers after ratification of a new contract negotiation at the Ala Moana Hotel tonight. Local 5 hotel workers voted on a new contract that passed with 99.6% approval from about 1000 union members. The ratification will end the 51-day strike against several major hotels owned by Kyo-ya and managed by Marriott.

Hotel owner Kyo-ya offered striking hotel workers up to $6.13 per hour in pay and benefit increases over four years in a new contract today that ended a 51-day-old strike.

The contract was ratified by 99.6 percent of more than 1,000 striking workers who voted today at the Ala Moana Hotel. Some 2,700 workers have been on strike since Oct. 8 when negotiations reached an impasse between Local 5 and Kyo-ya, which owns the Marriott-­managed Sheraton Waikiki, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and Sheraton Maui.

In the first year of their new contract, non-tipped employees will get $1.50 per hour wage increase plus 20 cents per hour for medical, 13 cents for pension and 10 cents for a child/elder care fund. Tipped employees would get 75 cents per hour added to their pay.

Next year the pay and benefit increase would total $1, in 2020 it would increase by $1.76 and in 2021 it would be $1.44.

When the strike started workers were seeking a $3-hourly-wage increase for the first year and Kyo-ya had offered a 70-cent-hike for wages and benefits. The average Local 5 housekeeper makes $22 an hour.

Union and hotel negotiators met from approximately 10 a.m Monday to 1 a.m. this morning. They resumed again at 10 a.m.

Unite Here Local 5 President Gemma Weinstein said today, “We’re grateful for the solidarity of our fellow union members and the support of the entire community.”

Kyo-ya said that the new agreement meets the needs of the employees and the ownership group.

“We look forward to welcoming (employees) back and look forward to more years of working together to successfully provide world-class service to our guests. We also want to thank the community for their patience and understanding throughout this process,” Kyo-ya said.

Following the vote, a group of Local 5 leaders and members gathered at the Ala Moana Hotel.

Jowenna Ellazar, who works at the Princess Kaiulani, said, “This day is a huge victory for all of us. We’ve got something huge that we’ve been needing not wanting.”

Ellazar said the strike was difficult for members, but added, “We’d do it again for sure because we got an amazing contract.”

The local action was part of a nationwide strike, which is also underway in San Francisco. Settlements have been reached in Boston, Detroit and the California cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Diego.

Unite Here reached a tentative agreement several weeks ago with Marriott on national issues such as job safety and security and automation and technology.

The prolonged strike, which was more than twice the length of Local 5’s 1990 hotel strike, divided the community and cast a blight on Hawaii’s tourism brand. It was the longest Hawaii hotel workers strike since 1970 when ILWU hotel workers went on strike at neighbor island hotels for more than 10 weeks.

Local 5’s last big hotel strike was in 1990 when workers walked the picket lines for 22 days. That strike involved 7,500 workers for Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the Ilikai, Kahala Hilton, Sheraton Waikiki, Sheraton Moana Surfrider, Princess Kaiulani, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Sheraton Kauai, Sheraton Maui and Kona Hilton.

The 1990 strike was so contentious that the Council of Hawaii Hotels unsuccessfully sought to get a restraining order against the union for civil disobedience. Tensions were particularly high at the Kahala Hilton, where management accused strikers of turning Kahala Beach Park into a campsite, trying to forcibly gain entrance to its Hala Terrace Restaurant and impeding access to the hotel.

Complaints about lack of hotel service from this strike lit up social media. A North Carolina couple sued, arguing that strike-related lack of services ruined their honeymoon.

This strike negatively affected Hawaii’s largest group event of the year, the American Dental Association’s annual meeting, which brought about 16,500 attendees and guests to Honolulu from Oct. 18 to 22. On Maui the strike affected Spiked!, a Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival event held Oct. 20 at the Sheraton Maui. It also put a damper on the Nov. 18 Maui Jim Maui Classic at the Ka‘anapali Kai Golf Course.

Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell supported the union by refusing to cross picket lines prompting the cancellations or movement of some local events.

The strike created friction between union workers and managers, who were forced to work extra hours, and temporary workers.

Local 5 even picketed the Hawai‘i Convention Center for utilizing a staffing company that was supplying Marriott with temporary workers. Likewise, the union picketed the non-union Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach for sending employee support to Marriott hotels where workers were striking.

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