Marriott's hotel worker strike expands to Hawaii

The Royal Hawaiian is one of five Hawaii hotels impacted by the strike. Photo credit: Marriott International

Amid ongoing strikes in Boston and California, Marriott International hotel workers in Hawaii have vacated their posts after talks for improved wages, benefits and job security stalled.

The strike, organized by Unite Here Local 5, began at 5 a.m. on Oct. 5, impacting five hotels operated by Marriott and owned by Hawaii-based hotel company Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts: the Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, the Westin Moana Surfrider, the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and the Sheraton Maui. More than 2,700 Hawaiian hotel workers are part of the strike, and roughly 7,700 Marriott workers overall are involved.

The reasons for the strike are, by now, not a surprise. According to Hawaii News Now, hotel workers are rallying behind a single theme: “One job should be enough.” The strike is in line with the challenges industry leaders have spoken about in recent months, mainly that the strong job market has given power to the industry’s workforce when demanding higher wages.

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"Marriott has forced this strike. After five years of record profits and more than six months of contract talks Marriott still doesn't get it," Brian Lang, president of Local 26, told UPI. "It's our work that creates the great experience for the hotel guests. We are the reason that they keep coming back. Our demand is modest and fair, one job should be enough."

Kyo-Ya issued a statement that talks between the company and Local 5 are set to continue. Meanwhile, Marriott hotel operators said their properties will remain open during 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,” Kyo-ya said in a statement. “We have notified our guests and business partners of the situation and are providing them with ongoing updates.”

“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,” George Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said in a statement. "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.”

Whether or not these strikes will be successful remains to be seen. However, hotel workers came out on top in Chicago as ongoing strikes in the city were reduced to just two properties from 26 after workers represented by Unite Here Local 1 secured new contracts with the Hampton Inn/Homewood Suites Magnificent Mile and Crowne Plaza earlier this month.

“Having achieved equitable agreements, we believe that both hotel operators and union team members are pleased to put the recent strike behind them and to return to focusing on the guest experience that makes Chicago a world-class hospitality destination,” said Jim Zuehl, CEO of Hotel Employers Labor Relations Association.