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labor Unite Here Local 5 Workers Ratify Contract With Kyo-ya

Hawaii hotel workers ended a 51-day strike Tuesday with the ratification of a new contract that would bring them up to $6.13 an hour in pay and benefit hikes over four years.

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Hotel workers ended a 51-day strike Tuesday with the ratification of a new contract that would bring them up to $6.13 an hour in pay and benefit hikes over four years.

The contract between workers and Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts was ratified by 99.6 percent of the more than 1,000 workers who voted Tuesday. Some 2,700 workers have been out 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 the new agreement, nontipped employees will get a $1.50-an-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 an hour, and bellmen will receive $1.12 an hour added to their pay. The pay increases are retroactive to July 1 but will not include the 51-day strike period.

Next year the pay and benefit increase would total $1 an hour, 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 had been making $22.14 an hour.

Union and hotel negotiators met from approximately 10 a.m Monday to 1 a.m. Tuesday and resumed at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The strike vote began at 2 p.m., and results were announced at about 8:30 p.m., followed by an impromptu celebration.

Acceptance of the proposal ended the state’s longest hotel workers strike in nearly 50 years. Unite Here Local 5 Secretary-Treasurer Eric Gill said the union expects to get most of its members back to work Thursday.

“Marriott decided it was time to get the deal done; they dug deep and made it happen,” Gill said.

While any contract is a compromise, Gill said Local 5 is satisfied with the contract and will be using it as the standard to replace other expiring hotel contracts. Contracts are expiring at 20 Local 5 hotels in Hawaii this year.

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 in a statement.

Following the contract vote, the scene at Ala Moana Hotel was festive as workers sang their own strike version of “Feliz Navidad.”

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. We needed to do this for our families, for our kids, for our future.”

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

In addition to wage and benefit increases, workers also obtained several safety and security provisions. The contract also created a fund to support members who need assistance with child care or elder care. It launches a pilot program that allows workers with more than 25 years of service to work as little as three days a week without losing seniority.

It requires the employer to submit proposed changes to automation and technology to a technology committee 165 days before implementation and negotiate them before they take effect. Displaced workers would be entitled to return rights, retraining, severance and medical and pension bridging.

The contract addresses safety for workers by requiring installation by 2019 of panic buttons for employees who work alone in guest rooms. Kyo-ya also agreed to keep lists of guests who make unwanted sexual advances to workers and warn workers if they are staying in the hotel and reassign those who feel uncomfortable. According to the contract, guests who are accused by workers of sexual assault or criminal conduct will not be allowed to return to the hotel for at least three years.

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.

Now Honolulu workers say they are just anxious to get back to work. One picketer said Tuesday, “We miss our jobs. We love working.”

Waikiki resident Dave Moskowitz said, “I just wish the union and management had come to a conclusion sooner. In this case I think the hotels lost a lot more than the workers. It’s going to be hard to rebuild consumer goodwill.”

The prolonged strike, which was about 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 hotel workers strike in the state since 1970 when International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers went on strike at neighbor island hotels for more than 10 weeks.

Local 5’s last big 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.

Complaints about lack of hotel service from this strike lit up social media. Guests complained bitterly about limited food and beverage, housekeeping and parking services. A North Carolina couple sued, arguing that strike-related lack of services ruined their honeymoon.

Anthony Mancuso, a repeat visitor from Sydney, said he was glad to see the strike settled.

“It’s not the aloha spirit,” Mancuso said. “I’m glad workers got what they wanted.”

Vendors were affected by shutdowns like RumFire, one of Waikiki’s largest liq­uor accounts. Other nearby hoteliers and retailers were challenged as they tried to do business in an environment that most tourists wanted to avoid.

The 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. 18-22. 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 Kaanapali Kai Golf Course.

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 nonunion Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach, for sending employee support to Marriott hotels where workers were striking.

Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell supported the union by refusing to cross picket lines, prompting the cancellation or movement of some local events. Caldwell issued a statement Tuesday saying that he was grateful for the effort to compromise by both sides.

“The message from our striking local workers resonated far beyond our island home. People that work and live on Oahu deserve to earn a wage that allows them to provide for their families. Hopefully, with this agreement in place, our hotel workers can return to doing what they do best — showing their unique brand of aloha to everyone who visits our island,” he said.

The strike created friction between union workers and managers, who were forced to work extra hours, and temporary workers. More than 10 incidents were logged by police in the first month of the strike alone.

Five union workers — three at the Sheraton Maui and two at the Sheraton Waikiki — were banned for one year from the properties where they work. The hotels banned the employees for leafleting guests in the porte-cochere. The union has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board in connection with these incidents.

TERMS OF THE DEAL

Striking Local 5 hotel workers ratified a new contract Tuesday night with Kyo-ya that is retroactive to July 1 and increases their wages and benefits by up to $6.13 an hour over four years:

FIRST-YEAR HOURLY WAGE INCREASES

>> Nontipped employees: $1.50

>> Tipped employees: 75 cents

>> Bellmen: $1.12

FIRST-YEAR HOURLY BENEFIT INCREASES

>> 20 cents for medical

>> 13 cents for pension

>> 10 cents for a child/elder care fund

HOURLY WAGE/BENEFIT INCREASES FOR SUBSEQUENT THREE YEARS OF CONTRACT:

>> $1 in 2019

>> $1.76 in 2020

>> $1.44 in 2021

TOTAL WORTH OF CONTRACT

>> Nontipped employees: $6.13 an hour

>> Tipped employees: $5.38 an hour

>> Bellmen: $5.75 an hour