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Local 5 members approve 2-year agreement with Hilton. Union negotiates with other major hotels

Local 5 Rally Hotels Tourism Waikiki Hilton Hawaiian Village
Casey Harlow / HPR

It's been 21 days since the state's largest hospitality union had a contract in place with some of Waikīkī's biggest hotels.

Now, 1,800 union members employed by the Hilton Hawaiian Village have a new two-year contract after 99% of members approved the hotel's proposal on Wednesday.

"This is a short-term contract. It's really an extension of our last contract," said Eric Gill, treasurer and financial secretary of Local 5. "We did not attempt to renegotiate all of the provisions, or even many of them. We had a narrow focus this year. Our focus was to get our members back to work."

The main focus was the full return of daily room cleanings. The service was reduced to checkout and by request only.

UNITE HERE! Local 5 rally waikiki 060722
Casey Harlow
UNITE HERE! Local 5 holds a rally in Waikīkī on June 7, 2022.

Gill says a small number of housekeepers have been brought back full-time, while others either worked part-time or on-call. However, there are some who are still waiting to be brought back.

Another focus was pay raises for workers.

"All of our families have been through quite a bit in the past couple of years, and, of course, coming out of furloughs and lengthy layoffs. We're facing, now, historically high inflation," Gill told HPR.

Another aspect of the contract was replenishing a union fund that provided a safety net for current and retired members throughout the pandemic.

Gill says Local 5's Health and Wellness fund was depleted over the last two years — especially since the union was not receiving member dues.

Specific details of the contract were not released, as the union is still negotiating with other major hotel groups in Waikīkī — such as Hyatt, Marriott and Sheraton — for a new contract.

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

Gill tells HPR that Hilton's contract is a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen what other hotels decide.

"Even though Local 5 can declare success for our members, nonetheless, this community is still taking a big blow coming out of this pandemic," he said. "Some of the best jobs in tourism are just disappearing . . . the loss of tourism jobs to our economy is significant."

Gill anticipates the next contract will be more extensive in what the union would like to secure for its members.

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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