Is it just about the money?

Starting Oct. 8, about 95 percent of nearly 3,500 hotel workers and housekeepers in Hawaii voted to authorize a strike against Kyo-ya-owned hotels. This marks day 49 of the strike. Local 5 protested throughout the busy Thanksgiving weekend for higher wages and better benefits.


Members of the Unite Here Local 5 hotel workers union from six Marriott properties voted to authorize a strike with a 95 percent yes vote on Sept. 12. Photo by Abby Bustamante 2018.

Gemma Weinstein is the president of AiKea Local 5 Union and has been working as a housekeeper in the hospitality industry for 28 years. She says her hours have been cut and she may have to find another job to make ends meet.

We want benefits like medical coverage, social security, and retirement money because we have been working so hard but hotels are not providing us anything.”

— Gemma Weinstein

Jason Murai, another strike member with the Local 5, has been working for three years at Princess Kaiulani Hotel and feels his job is at risk.

“They keep cutting down our hours which we don’t have work to do leading us to not get paid our weekly amount and bringing in a subcontractor to take our jobs,” Murai said.

For the past 7 weeks, workers have been in negotiation with Kyo-ya-owned hotels in Hawaii like the Sheraton Waikiki, Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani and Sheraton Maui an agreement has yet to be reached.

Kyo-ya has refused to ensure that one job is enough to sustain a family, according to strikers.

Some strikers have worked two jobs for over 50 years, Weinstein said, and they’re still unable to afford a house of their own. She says that many hospitality workers are tired of working more hours but getting fewer wages. They want to enjoy life and spend time with their children and families.

“We want benefits like medical coverage, social security, and retirement money because we have been working so hard but hotels are not providing us anything,” Weinstein said with a serious look on her face.

Hawaii’s economy is based on tourism, according to Weinstein, and hotel workers are the reason guests feel welcome and comfortable on our islands.

According to the Hawaii State Government website, Hawaii’s economy is expected to continue positive growth in 2019. Hawaii received a record of 9.3 million visitors last year and this year the Aloha State’s tourism industry is on pace for another tourism record.

Weinstein says that tourists depend on hospitality staff and she feels that hospitality workers need to be given more attention.

“It’s not about us wanting more money to be selfish,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein said she is proud that people are joining together to stand up for what they believe in.

It’s not about us wanting more money to be selfish.”

— Gemma Weinstein

Strikers argue that those people working short hours don’t get paid enough so they have to work more than one job to support their families. They also argue that Local 5 didn’t authorize the strike for their own good; they did it to help the next generation succeed and have a better and easier life in Hawaii.

Murai feels that if people don’t work together to help solve this problem now, no one will be able to afford to live in Hawaii in the future.

“We want more money because we can’t live in Hawaii if we’re only making what we’re making now,” Weinstein said.