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Contract between Waikīkī’s biggest hotels and its workers set to expire

UNITE HERE Local 5 hilton hawaiian village waikiki 063022
Courtesy Unite Here! Local 5
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Unite Here! Local 5 members at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in June 2022.

The union that represents the workers of some of Waikīkī’s biggest hotels could go on strike as soon as Friday. That’s because UNITE HERE! Local 5’s contract with Hilton, Hyatt, Kyo-ya and Marriott expires at midnight Thursday, June 30.

Union leaders say they will not likely go on strike, but it is an option if an agreement isn’t reached.

Earlier this week, the union held another rally in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It’s the largest property in the company’s portfolio, and the largest hotel in the state.

For Local 5’s financial secretary-treasurer Eric Gill, he says he’s cautiously optimistic an agreement can be reached.

"This is a very different bargaining environment. After two years of closure, we are conducting discussions with these companies on a national basis. Hilton is running very high occupancy. There’s no excuse not to bring our people back to work. And we’re insisting that they do that," Gill said.

Gill says getting members back to work and ensuring job security are at the forefront of the union’s requests. But he says the union isn’t asking for too many changes from its current agreement.

Local 5 argues that Hilton and several other properties breached the contract by getting rid of daily room cleanings, and not bringing workers back in a timely manner.

For the month of May, hotels saw higher revenues per room and average daily rates compared to 2019 — increases of 24% and 33%, respectively. Those increases helped offset a 75% occupancy rate, which was 5% lower than in 2019.

Gill says although there are some issues the union and hotels have to work through — a strike is not in the best interest of either party.

"All of our families have been through a rough road the last couple of years. And the companies, you know, they were closed for nine months. That’s nothing I’ve seen in my life. So this is an unprecedented situation for everybody. We have strong feelings. But we want to get a deal. No, we’re not afraid to strike. But that’s not our intent," he told HPR.

HPR has reached out to Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort for comment.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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