2,700 hotel workers at 5 Waikiki hotels go on strike

The rallying cry from the picket line: ‘One job should be enough.’
Thousands of hotel workers are on strike in Waikiki.
Thousands of hotel workers are on strike in Waikiki.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Oct. 10, 2018 at 5:30 PM HST
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WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 2,700 hotel workers are on strike at five Waikiki properties.

Workers at five Waikiki hotels are on strike after they couldn't reach a deal with management.
Workers at five Waikiki hotels are on strike after they couldn't reach a deal with management.(Hawaii News Now)

The Local 5 strike, which began at 5 a.m., impacts five hotels operated by Marriott and owned by Kyo-ya: Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton ‪Princess Kaiulani‬ and Sheraton Maui.

The strike comes after Marriott and Kyo-ya failed to reach an agreement with unionized workers, who are calling for higher wages, more benefits and job security.

Kyo-ya and Local 5 say contract talks continue.

The main demand from strikers is the rallying cry: “One job should be enough."

“We’re asking for one job to be enough,” said Jenny Johnson, a dinner cook at Sheraton Waikiki for the last seven years. "We want a fair contract so that our members can work and afford to put food on their table and still be able to sit down and enjoy their dinner with their families.”

Jowenna Ellazar, a housekeeper at Sheraton Princess Kaiulani for the last three years, said workers want “fair wages.”

"We need benefits that aren’t going to take away half of our paychecks. We need job security because what is a high wage paying job with good benefits if we can lose the job the next day?" she said.

Picket lines stretched out across several intersections near the Sheraton Waikiki, where some guests said they could hear the chanting from their balconies and had to make alternative arrangements for breakfast because some food service was impacted.

John Fishpaw, a visitor from Santa Barbara who stays in Waikiki every year, said he was surprised by the strike.

“I guess it’s unfortunate, but hopefully they’ll get it worked out and resolved,” he said.

Visitor David Alvarez said he supports the workers.

“I mean, they really work hard and they’re always with a smile and I’m with them,” he said. "I hope it works out cause we just love the Sheraton and we want to come back and see everyone happy.”

While the strike was peaceful, tensions did escalate Monday morning when some people crossed the picket line. Union workers say they plan to strike until they reach an agreement.

The Sheraton Waikiki is the biggest of the affected hotels, and it also houses Kyo-ya’s executive office.

Kyo-Ya issued this statement on the strike:

We have implemented contingency plans which ensure that the Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, and the Sheraton Maui continue to offer our guests an enjoyable experience during their stay in Hawaii. There have been some adjustments to staffing levels and services being offered at our properties. We have notified our guests and business partners of the situation and are providing them with ongoing updates. 

The Honolulu and Maui Marriott workers are joining a nationwide strike totaling eight cities with 7,700 Marriott hotel workers from 23 hotels.

Strikes began last week in Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, San Diego, and Detroit.

Waikiki’s Local 5 workers did get support from U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono on Monday, who said she stands “in solidarity” with the striking workers.

“Their collective action to go on strike is a powerful reminder that big corporations’ profits and success come from the labor of thousands of dedicated workers in Hawaii and elsewhere,” she said, in a news release.

Meanwhile, Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO George Szigeti said in a statement that visitors do not need to cancel or adjust their travel plans due to the strike.

“For travelers with questions about their upcoming stay at any of the five properties, we advise them to contact their hotel directly for updated information,” he said. "All resorts are open and ready to service guests with the aloha spirit and hospitality they are accustomed to when staying in the Hawaiian Islands..”

This story is being updated.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.