Ka Leo O Kalani

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Is it just about the money?

Starting Oct. 8, about 95 percent of nearly of 3,500 hotel workers and housekeepers in Hawaii voted to authorize a strike against several hotels in Waikiki because they felt they are not getting paid enough or at all. Today marks day 49 of the strike and Local 5 Union protested throughout the busy Thanksgiving weekend.

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.+
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Is it just about the money?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

Workers have been in negotiation with hotels like Marriott, Kyo-ya, Sheraton Waikiki, the Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, yet management at these hotels has refused to ensure that one job is not 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 people who make guests feel welcome and comfortable.

According to the Hawaii State Government website, Hawaii’s economy is expected to continue positive growth in 2018 and 2019. This outlook is based on the most recent developments in the national and global economies due to the performance of Hawaii’s tourism industry. Hawaii received a record of 9.3 million visitors last year, putting the Aloha State’s tourism industry on pace for another record-setting year.

Weinstein says that tourists come to Hawaii and stay at the hotels, which are dependent on their hospitality staff. Weinstein feels that hospitality workers need to be given more attention.

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

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

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.

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

— Gemma Weinstein

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.

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

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Is it just about the money?