Picket lines went up at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki on Thursday as union workers at the largest resort in Hawaii went on a five-day strike over a contract dispute.
The job action at the hotel with 3,600 rooms and 1,500 union members, including housekeepers and food service workers, began at 4 a.m. when members of Unite Here Local 5 walked off the job.
The union issued a statement that said the strike was in protest of Hilton's efforts "to lock workers into cheap recession contracts."
For its part, the hotel posted a letter to guests in the lobby and elevators that said management was bargaining in good faith with the union, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The guests were told hotel-run restaurants were closed and room service and valet parking weren't available. Housekeeping services were also interrupted, and guests were told where they could pick up extra towels.
"Our primary responsibility and priority is to service you, our valued guests, and to ensure that your stay with us is a pleasant and comfortable one," the letter said.
The workers' contract expired June 30, and union spokesman Cade Watanabe said no agreement has been reached on any issue, including wages and working conditions.
Ninety-five percent of union members voted Sept. 15 to authorize a strike.
"I'm out here fighting for what this community needs," the union quoted hotel housekeeper Luciana Dupio as saying. "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 everyday; my body is hurting and still they want more."
Hilton is owned by The Blackstone Group LP, an asset management firm.
Hotel guest Stacey Mager, of Prior Lake, Minn., said the strike hadn't stopped her and her husband, Mike, from enjoying their first trip to Hawaii.
"Overall, every worker we've dealt with has been very pleasant and willing to help you out," she said.
However, Mager said the pickets did wake them up.
"We woke up this morning to screaming and drumming," she said. "We thought people were doing yoga or something."
The labor trouble could lead to the cancellation of the Nov. 14-17 annual conference of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, which would bring more than 10,000 visitors to Hawaii.
The Brookfield, Wis.-based organization told Jerry Gibson, area vice president for Hilton Hawaii, in a letter Oct. 8 that "we will have no alternative but to cancel the conference for Hawaii" if labor issues are not resolved so that there are no activities such as strikes, pickets and boycotts, the Star-Advertiser reported.
The group has contacted other hotels in Waikiki to see if they could take the guests who are booked at the Hilton, Gibson said Thursday. The foundation had booked 9,230 hotel room-nights at the Hilton, he said. Room-nights is a measure of a number of hotel rooms multiplied by the number of nights they are booked.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com