HONOLULU, HI – At 3:00 am on Thursday morning, October 14, 2010, more than three months after union hotel contracts expired, hotel workers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village – Hilton’s largest hotel worldwide with over 3,600 rooms and 1,500 union workers – walked off the job, announcing a five-day strike protesting Hilton’s efforts to lock workers into cheap recession contracts.
Outraged that Hilton finagled US$180 million in bailout funds – taxpayer money that was meant to help stimulate the economy by creating jobs – while workers have endured staff cuts, reduced hours, and high injury rates – hundreds are participating in the strike.
The striking workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 5, and include housekeepers, dishwashers, cooks, bell staff, food servers, and others.
Workers in Hawaii now join other striking Hilton workers in San Francisco who walked off the job on Wednesday.
“I’m not out here just for me. I’m a taxpayer, too, and I’m twice as upset over what the Hilton has done. This is not just about hotel workers, it’s about the future of our community. The taxpayer money that Hilton took was supposed to go towards helping to create jobs, and not be used to hurt workers in this economy. Hilton is just another predator of the recession. They line their pockets with taxpayer money, and now they want even more from workers by using the economy as an excuse to eliminate jobs, ncrease our workload, and lock us into a permanent recession.
“To me, that’s just being greedy,” said Debbie Tabar, an accounting clerk at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
On September 15, 2010, workers at Hilton’s flagship property voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with 95 percent of union members voting in favor of a strike. Hilton Hawaiian Village workers are among nearly 6,000 other Hawaii hotel workers whose contracts expired on June 30, 2010.
Luciana Dupio, a housekeeper at the Hilton Hawaiian Village added, “I’m out here fighting for what this community needs. We need good quality jobs that we can continue to raise our families on. I’m a hard worker and a mother, and I’m not going to be fooled by these mainland Wall Street firms. The Hilton is doing well, business is back, and I see it every day; my body is hurting and still they want more.”
Hilton Worldwide is owned by the Blackstone Group – one of Wall Street’s largest private equity firms – who manages US$100 billion in assets for large pension funds and other investors around the country. Nationwide, the hotel industry is rebounding faster and stronger than expected, with a hearty rebound projected in 2011 and 2012. Hotel revenue projections for Oahu alone are up more than 7 percent in 2010. PKF Hospitality projects that hotel revenues will rise an average of 8 percent annually from 2010 through 2014. Despite these trends showing a strong recovery for the hotel industry, hotels are refusing to share that recovery with their workers.
Local 5 represents over 10,500 workers throughout Hawaii who work in the hospitality, health care, and food service industries and is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international union that represents over 250,000 workers throughout the US and Canada.