Labor union sues over hotel renovation plans - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Labor union sues over hotel renovation plans

Rod Kane Rod Kane
Rick Egged Rick Egged
Godfrey Maeshiro Godfrey Maeshiro

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email 

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and the Westin Moana Surfrider are slated for a $700 million makeover. They're also the focus of a lawsuit by the hotel workers union.

"I love my job," Rod Kane said.

Kane has been a chef at the Princess Kaiulani for 16 years.

He's worried he'll lose his job when Kyo-ya, the owner of the hotels, converts some rooms to condos and residential units.

"You're taking away jobs because now they're not going downstairs to eat in my restaurant. I'm not feeding them. They're staying upstairs," he said.

UNITE HERE! Local 5 is suing Kyo-ya, claiming the jobs of the hotels' 800 unionized employees are at risk.

But Ernest Nishizaki, Kyo-ya's executive vice president, said the redevelopment will enable the company " to reposition our hotels for our guests to meet the ever-changing need and expectations of our visitors."

He said it will create "new and exciting work opportunities for our associates" and bring a new vibrancy to Waikiki.

Rick Egged, president of the Waikiki Improvement Association, said the makeover is crucial to marketing the hotels.

"These properties are old. They need to be turned into the kind of product that's saleable on today's market," he said.

The union claims the Final Environmental Impact Statement doesn't say the number of jobs Kyo-ya promises to create will hinge on the number of hotel rooms in the final product.

Kyo-ya reserves the right to change that number during construction.

"Right now we've got twenty bellmen. If it's a condo and a condo-hotel, it's probably going to be cut in half," Princess Kaiulani bell captain Godfrey Maeshiro said.

Kyo-ya said the projects will create new public beach access, and hundreds of construction jobs, and could bring in about $10 million a year in increased tax revenues.

But UNITE HERE wants more assurances that its members will remain employed.

"We need our jobs. We need good middle-class jobs," Kane said.

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