by Derek Scarlino / Love and Rage – Labor
HONOLULU – They descended upon the intersection of Kuhio Ave and Seaside Ave Thursday afternoon. Workers, organizers, and supporters, nearly 200 of them, all in red shirts, gathered for a rally to support hospitality workers at the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach hotel who went public about a month ago with their intent to unionize.
According to a report by Hawaii Public Radio, nearly half of Waikiki’s hospitality workers do not belong to a union. As tourism in Hawai’i expected to increase again in 2018, workers at the Hyatt Centric have decided to go forth and organize with the help of Unite Here! Local 5.
“We just want some protection at our jobs,” said Lady Anne Tapac, a housekeeper at the hotel and is out for fairer workloads. “As housekeepers, we have a lot of room assignments, and we’re also out here for good benefits, but it’s not all about good benefits, we’re out here for our rights as workers, too.”
Among the crowd was culinary worker Renante Abastas who was part of a past labor issue at the Hyatt Regency and now finds himself as one of the main organizers, using his experience to help. He agrees that job protections are a primary concern.
“That’s what’s bringing everyone here,” Abastas said. “We feel that there were a lot of people who were working there that got let go for no particular reason, you know? We’re just concerned about us and our families. These guys are not going to back us up if we’re on the streets. Who’s going to back us up? It’s just us. We’re basically backing each other up.”
Taking place in the middle of Waikiki, typically bustling in the late afternoon, the public reception was also mostly positive. However, there was an incident at the onset of the rally as an onlooker across the street first hurled insults, then an ice cube tray, and eventually beer bottles which hit a retired union member. Honolulu PD records confirm that they’ve been charged with second degree assault, harassment, and second degree reckless endangerment.
Organizers with Local 5 said that they were initially expecting about 50 people to rally, and that such a large number of participants was highly encouraging. The workers of the Hyatt Centric Waikiki Beach hotel will hold their union election on Tuesday, April 3rd.