Maui hotel workers demonstrate for worker safety, reopening

Maui hotel workers demonstrate for worker safety, reopening
Hotel workers in Maui held a demonstration over the weekend calling on Hawaii legislators and tourism industry officials to reopen the state to visitors while protecting employees. (Source: Unite Here! Local 5)

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Hotel workers on Maui held a demonstration over the weekend calling on Hawaii legislators and tourism industry officials to reopen the state to visitors while protecting employees.

About 200 union members and supporters in 70 vehicles rode through Lahaina and Kaanapali during the event Saturday, The Maui News reported.

Participants expressed concerns about health care coverage, adequate testing for COVID-19 and the availability of personal protective equipment.

The caravan was organized by the Unite Here Local 5 hotel workers union.

Workers demonstrated to express their belief the state’s vital tourism industry can reopen safely, Local 5 Key Leader Erin Kelley said.

“Global travelers are looking to Hawaii as one of the safest places to travel, and we feel Hawaii should not waste this opportunity by not opening safely,” Kelley said.

Tourism statewide plummeted following the March 26 start of a mandatory, 14-day self-quarantine for incoming travelers. Democratic Gov. David Ige last week extended the quarantine to July 31.

About 9,500 of the 12,000 hospitality, health care and food service workers represented by Local 5 have became unemployed since the tourism collapse.

Maintaining health insurance for workers is the union’s top priority, Kelley said, describing lost coverage as dangerous for workers, their families and the community.

Rod Antone, executive director of the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association, said he was was not sure how many of the organization’s 50 members continue to pay for employee health insurance during the pandemic.

Hotels are preparing for reopening by retraining employees, purchasing protective equipment and cleaning supplies, and offering hand sanitizer and complimentary disinfecting wipes to guests, he said.

Some hotels are planning to use keyless entry with phones rather than key cards to help prevent the spread of the virus, Antone said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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