Hundreds of members of the Hawaii Masons' Union are now on strike after months of negotiations. They set up picket lines on Monday morning outside several construction sites. There are 600 ceramic tile and marble setters in Local #1 of Hawaii, according to the union.
"A strike is like a last resort. We definitely don't want it," said Todd Saito, a business representative for Local #1 of Hawaii. "The Tile Contractors Association is simply playing hardball with us with no justification."
The contract with the Tile Contractors Association of Hawaii expired in September 2014, according to the union. Saito said workers voted in favor of a walkout.
"It's been over a year and we're in mediation now and it didn't seem like we were going anywhere. In fact, we came up with some packages and nothing happened," Saito said.
Workers hope to send a strong message by picketing outside Symphony Honolulu, Waiea, Ritz-Carlton Residences, Hilton Garden Inn, and the Ala Moana Center expansion.
"All we're asking for is fair wages and benefits according to the industry standards," said Jeffrey Ornellas, training coordinator for Local #1 of Hawaii.
The basic hourly rate for ceramic tile and marble setters is $37.10, according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' wage rate schedule. Cement finishers earn $37.90, while plasterers make $39.04.
"We just need to stick together. We just need to protect not only ourselves, but our family and our future," said Ornellas.
Hawaii News Now contacted the Tile Contractors Association of Hawaii, but we did not receive a response. Other construction work is still going on at the five development projects.
Both sides are set to return to the bargaining table on Tuesday afternoon, according to Local 1. Union workers will resume picketing early Tuesday morning.