Tovin Lapan
Tovin Lapan

Roughly 2,7000 employees at Marriott-managed properties on Oahu and Maui went on strike Oct. 8, joining thousands of Marriott employees around the country who walked off the job the week prior.

At issue are stalled negotiations over wages and safety measures.  

In Hawaii the five impacted properties are The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Waikiki and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Waikiki, and the Sheraton Maui, all owned by the Japanese company Kyo-Ya Hotels and Resorts.

All of the hotels remain open.

Workers at Waikiki Beach Marriott, owned by Atrium Hospitality, also approved a work stoppage in a September vote but are not currently striking.

Unite Here Local 5, the Hawaii chapter of the national union that represents the workers, argues that many of the Hawaii hotel workers need multiple jobs in order to afford the state's high cost of living. According to data from the 2017 American Community Survey, Hawaii has the highest median home cost in the country over the last decade. The median home value in 2017 was $617,400, and in Honolulu the figure rises to $810,000. The median rent in the Aloha State is $1,573, highest in the nation according to the ACS data.

Under the contract that expired at the end of June, housekeepers made $22.14 per hour including health benefits. Paola Rodelas, spokeswoman for Unite Here Local 5, said the wage is inadequate for Hawaii and pointed to a recent study from the National Low Income Housing Coalition that says a worker in Honolulu must make $39 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

"For our workers the most important issue is to make one job enough to live in Hawaii," Rodelas said. "It has to do with wages and benefits, but it also has to do with a range of issues. It also encomapasses job security, automation and technology in the workplace, the increasing use of subcontractors and outsourcing, which is a big issue in Hawaii, and workplace safety. Housekeeping is back-breaking work and there are rampant issues of sexual harassment in hotels. We want to make sure there are adequate staffing and safety procedures."

After workers went on strike on Oct. 8, Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts said in a statement that it is "committed to continuing our good faith bargaining and hope to resolve this situation in a timely manner."

The company added that it has implemented contingency plans to ensure that five hotels "continue to offer our guests an enjoyable experience."
"There have been some adjustments to staffing levels and services being offered at our properties," the statement said. "We have notified our guests and business partners of the situation and are providing them with ongoing updates."

On Oct. 10 Rodelas said the two sides were working to schedule future dates for negotiations, but that no sessions were currently on the calendar.

"We've been negotiating with the company since June but we are really on opposite sides," she said.

During negotiations in the summer the union said that management had agreed to contribute to a fund to help workers pay for housing, but Rodelas said the proposal has not generated significant momentum because they are "very far apart" on the figures.

Unite Here workers authorized a strike at Marriott-managed hotels with a series of September votes prompting 7,000 union workers in seven cities - Detroit, San Diego, Boston, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose  to walk off the job Oct. 4. Rodelas said for multiple reasons the timing worked better for Hawaii's members to strike on Oct. 8.


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