Sunday, August 19, 2001

Gill Pauso, a cook for 10 years at the former Hawaiian
Waikiki Beach Hotel before losing his job, shouted
his disapproval of Aston Hotels and Resorts
yesterday during an ILWU-led protest.

ILWU calls for
boycott of
Aston Hotels sites

The dispute comes over workers
replaced after a hotel's sale

By Leila Fujimori

The union representing former workers at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel is asking for a boycott of Aston Hotels and Resorts, which operates 30 hotels and condominium resorts in Hawaii.

"We try to communicate in a way that they understand, and that's the almighty dollar," said Ray Camacho, ILWU Oahu Division director.

"For the union members and their families, when they make vacation plans to Hawaii, come but don't stay there."

Camacho said the union is asking the national AFL-CIO to place Aston on a national list of companies not to be patronized because of poor labor practices.

Aston executive vice president and chief operating officer Kelvin Bloom responded, "Aston has an excellent reputation with Hawaii's travel market, so we are confident this won't have an effect on our occupancy."

The boycott call came during a picket by unionized workers who lost their jobs and members of the AFL-CIO's Asian-Pacific American Labor Alliance, which is holding its national convention in Honolulu.

Aston rehired only 30 of the 274 people, many of whom were members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, who worked at the then-Hawaiian Waikiki Beach Hotel after the former owners, the Otaka Corp., went into foreclosure. Hawaii Ventures LLC, which held the mortgage to the property, bought the hotel and hired Aston to manage the 715-room property.

"They (Aston) made a conscious decision to hold a job fair, not for a newly constructed hotel but a functioning entity, and replaced its workers," Camacho said.

Bloom says the union should be directing its protest against the Otaka Corp. "They're targeting, without question, the wrong party here. And Aston has nothing to do with what they're complaining about," he said.

He said Otaka is solely responsible for any severance and any other benefits for which the workers are asking. Hawaii Ventures said Aston had no role in the foreclosure and termination of employees.

Bloom said the hotel is undergoing a $30 million renovation and had to close down its restaurant and 35 percent of its rooms, resulting in just 100 positions available.

"I agree with the picketers," said Carol Campisi, a hotel guest from San Francisco. But she said it would not stop her from staying at an Aston hotel.

Louise Bennett, a guest from Georgia, said: "I'm against the union 200 percent. The union used to be good. All they want to do is take your money."

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