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Hawaii Hotel Workers Rally For End To Layoffs, Furloughs

Kazuhiko Teramoto/Wikimedia Commons
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More workers in Hawai?i’s hotel industry are facing layoffs and extended furloughs despite state plans to reopen to out-of-state travel in August. Labor advocates are calling on state legislators to put an end to job cuts that have left thousands of residents out of work.

Up with the workers and down with the bosses was the rallying chant for dozens of Hawai?i?s hospitality workers and labor union officials at the state capitol. They called for an end to what they say are mass firings at a time of uncertainty under COVID-19.

Roger Ibanyes recently lost his job at the Aston Waik?k? Beach Hotel. "I was so shocked, I could not say anything," he said. 

Ibanyes, a former maintenance engineer for the Aston, says nearly his entire department was let go in early June.

"For me, it?s very hard. Until now, I haven?t received any unemployment benefits. I did not receive any penny at all. All of it is coming out of my pocket," Ibanyes said.

??ina Iglesias has been on furlough from her job at the Doubletree by Hilton Alana Waik?k? Beach since March. The 24-year-old front desk agent is still waiting for the call to return to work.

"I’m angry but I’m also really really sad because I know some of the people who were just let go," she said.

Iglesias says some of her former colleagues are being asked to reapply for their jobs and others are being replaced by subcontractors.

As Hawai?i’s tourism industry reopens, some hotels are permanently terminating workers. The Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel eliminated 148 of its 160 employees in June. The Courtyard by Marriott cut 75 of its 94 positions, and the Park Shore Waikiki says it would terminate 60 of its 64 employees.

Representatives from the Aston Waik?k? Beach and the Courtyard by Marriott could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Eric Gill, financial secretary treasurer for UNITE HERE Local 5, said the layoffs and firings have repercussions for the state. 

"As the hotel industry sheds jobs to maintain their profits, Hawai?i loses tax revenues and all the income we need to have schools, have public health, maintain our public beaches. How can we do it without people having jobs and not paying income tax to the state?"

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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