WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Instead of spending the Labor Day holiday picnicking at the beach, thousands of hotel employees picketed the streets of Waikiki on Monday demanding better wages.
They want a bigger share of Hawaii's record tourism revenue after the industry raked in nearly $17 billion last year.
"They're not taking the workers seriously. That's why we made a statement here today. They're making millions of money and they're offering the workers cents," said UNITE HERE, Local 5 President Gemma Weinstein.
It started as a well-controlled protest along Kalakaua Avenue with about a dozen UNITE HERE Local 5 workers.
About an hour and a half into the protest, the rally exploded to about 2,000 people taking over Ohua Avenue.
More Honolulu police officers were called in to push protesters off the streets and onto sidewalks.
The message is targeting the Marriott-operated hotels: Waikiki Beach Marriott, Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Sheraton Kauai, and Sheraton Maui.
The state's leading properties are in contract negotiations. The contracts for more than 3,500 workers expired in June.
These workers say without a resolution, they might strike, which would disrupted Hawaii's tourism economy.
"In the last three months, they made $161 million. So what's the point of not sharing it with the workers? The reason why they're are number one is because of us, not because of their name. We make the people come back, we give them the best experience they can have, so that's all we're asking for. A fair share of what we created for them," Waikiki Beach Marriott employee Tina Tolentino said.
More than 100 Sheraton Maui workers also rallied in front of the Sheraton Maui in Kaanapali.
It was all part of a nationwide Labor Day demonstration.
Marriott International issued a statement stating, "Marriott International has longstanding and productive relationships with Unite Here, Local 5 and and is negotiating in good faith and in a timely fashion to obtain the best outcomes for our associates and guests."
Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts owns Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, and Sheraton Maui. The company also released a statement stating, "Kyo-ya is a company that values the contributions of all our associates, and we respect their right to voice their opinions. We are also committed to continuing our contract discussions and look forward to our scheduled future meetings."
On September 10th, union members will vote on whether to authorize a strike.