Large union rally invades Hilton property

Kaleo Aarona
Kaleo Aarona
Agnes Tolentino
Agnes Tolentino

By Brooks Baehr - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hotel workers unhappy about the progress of contract talks with management at the Hilton Hawaiian Village employed a new tactic Tuesday. They took their protest onto hotel property, a place that is usually a sanctuary for guests.

"Who's got the power? We got the power," hundreds of union workers and supporters chanted as they marched along Kalia Road in front of the Hilton.

"We need to settle a contact. We want to get back to business. You know, but they're just playing games with us," said Kaleo Aarona, a reservations agent who has worked at the Hilton for 23 years.

Tuesday the local workers had help from abroad. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of conventioneers in town for the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans' annual conference joined the rally.

"It's all leaders from different unions around the world and they're out here right now to do some convention meetings and things but they're coming out here with us to support us," Aarona told Hawaii News Now.

"Today is about standing together as one. Our union brothers and sisters here are standing together as one in solidarity," added Agnes Tolentino, a reservations agent with 16 years at the Hilton.

After 45 minutes on the street the protest moved onto hotel property and eventually into lobbies and down to the beach-front swimming pool.

"No contract. No peace. No contract. No peace," the protesters chanted as they made their way past curious hotel guests.

The commotion interrupted vacations, but hotel guests took it in stride.

"I mean it was a little irritating with them yelling in the background for an extended period of time, but I understand that they need to get their word out," said guest Terri Burton.

"I thought it was rather annoying, but I appreciate the fact that they have the right to do that," added Myrna Anderson, a visitor from Washington.

Unite Here Local 5 had contract talks with Hilton management twice last week. Workers told Hawaii News Now the two sides are still at odds on the big issues. Management says it has offered wage increases and increased benefit contributions so employees can continue to receive fully paid healthcare.

As for the rally, Hilton area Vice President Jerry Gibson said, "It is unfortunate that the union continues to be more concerned with engaging in disruptive behavior, and conducting unnecessary demonstrations, instead of focusing on what's important - completing negotiations for a new contract."

Both sides say they would like to settle, but as of Tuesday night no new talks were scheduled.

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