David Ige and Kirk Caldwell Tell Hotel Workers They Won’t Cross Picket Lines
Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told striking hotel workers Monday during a meeting at the state Capitol that they would not cross the picket line and have urged their hotel managers and owners to resume bargaining.
Unite Here Local 5, which represents 2,700 striking hotel workers in Hawaii, and Kyo-ya Hotels &Resorts will return to the bargaining table Friday and Saturday. The strike, which is now into its 15th day, began Oct. 8 when negotiations 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, reached an impasse.
Local 5 said it is seeking a $3 wage hike, but Kyo-ya has only offered a 70-cent-an-hour increase for wages and benefits. The average Local 5 housekeeper makes just over $22 an hour.
Kyo-ya did not return a call from the Star-Advertiser on Monday.
More than 30 Local 5 members, who were part of an 11-day islandwide relay to bring the union’s message to the community that “One Job Should Be Enough,” were invited to share their concerns with Ige and Caldwell on Monday afternoon. Former Gov. John Waihee, who helped negotiate an end to the 1990 Local 5 strike, which lasted 22 days, also was at the Capitol to pledge his support to union members.
“We learned a lot from the members that shared the challenges that they face being in Hawaii with the high cost of living,” Ige said. “There should be a fair wage settlement and package settlement that can end the strike. We shared that we have been talking to management and encouraging them to go back to the table.”
Caldwell said he and Ige have watched the strike “dramatically affect the visitor experience” and were heartened to hear management and workers soon will return to the bargaining table.
“Stay at the table and get it resolved quickly,” Caldwell said. “Two weeks is too long. The damage will become permanent at some point, and it will be hard to change course.”
In the meantime Caldwell said he hasn’t talked to visitors directly, but his administration has received complaints about the guest experience and it’s troubling. Caldwell said a few people also came up to him while he was walking in the Honolulu Pride Parade on Saturday and asked him to intervene.
Caldwell and Ige said they have been in contact with Kyo-ya, Marriott and Local 5 daily since the strike began. In the meantime, Caldwell said, “Neither I nor the governor will cross the picket line.”
But some people don’t hold that sentiment. Local 5 Secretary-Treasurer Eric Gill said hundreds of strikebreakers have crossed the line — although not enough to alleviate guest complaints. Gill said Marriott is sending in workers from the mainland and from nonunion properties like the Ritz-Carlton.
The union has picketed HiEmployment and People Who Clean for supplying “scabs,” Gill said.
Because HiEmployment supplies workers at the Hawai‘i Convention Center, Gill said Local 5 plans to begin picketing the center. Last week Local 5 passed out leaflets when the center’s largest group of the year, the American Dental Association, held an awards ceremony at the Waikiki Shell.
The union also chanted on the beach Saturday during Spiked! — a Hawai‘i Food &Wine Festival event held at the Sheraton Maui, which sold $590 packages that included two tickets to the event and a one-night stay.
Gill said if the strike isn’t settled, workers are ready to begin picketing at Marriott hotels that are outside of Kyo-ya’s ownership. Local 5 workers already has authorized a strike vote at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort &Spa and the Sheraton Kauai, he said.