Union sends out notices of Pacific Beach dispute
Workers at the hotel have gone without a contract since 2004
ILWU Local 142, the union that represents workers at the Pacific Beach Hotel, has sent out notices to a thousand travel wholesalers informing them that the three-year-old labor dispute there is heating up, and asking for their support.
A labor storm was already brewing before Pacific Beach owner HTH Corp. brought in Outrigger Enterprises Group to manage the property in January. Pacific Beach Hotel workers had voted to join the ILWU in 2004. A National Labor Relations Board investigation delayed recognition of the union until August 2005 and contract negotiations didn't begin until later that year.
While Local 142 has been able to negotiate a contract at the Outrigger-managed Ohana Airport Hotel, the talks at the Pacific Beach have posed more problems. The time lag has prompted the union to rally against the hotel and, last week, to raise the stakes by sending out the notices.
Outrigger said that it is disappointed with the union's decision on the notices, but is optimistic that the remaining problems will be resolved.
A longstanding labor dispute at the Pacific Beach Hotel is building, five months after Outrigger Enterprises Group took over management of their competitor's flagship hotel.
HTH Corp., one of Hawaii's largest private hospitality companies, brought in Outrigger in January to manage the property, whose workers have been without a contract since they voted to join ILWU Local 142 in 2004.
Last week the union, which has held several rallies in recent months, raised the stakes by sending out notices of the dispute to more than a thousand travel wholesalers, said Dave Mori, spokesman for Local 142.
While Local 142 represents only the Pacific Beach Hotel and the Ohana Airport Hotel on Oahu, it has some 12,000 members at about 30 properties statewide. Local 142 has negotiated a contract at the Outrigger-managed Airport Hotel, but has been working on obtaining a first union contract at Pacific Beach Hotel for nearly a year and a half.
"The fact that we've been bargaining for 16 months means that a consumer boycott could be in the very near the future," Mori said. "The notices are a step in that direction."
Bill Comstock, general manger of Pacific Beach Hotel, said that he was disappointed with the union's decision to send out the notices, but added that he was optimistic that the remaining problems would be resolved.
In the notices, Local 142 informed travel industry professionals that it "is engaged in a labor dispute with the owners and operators of the Pacific Beach Hotel." The notice asked businesses to exercise sound judgment and discretion to support the union's position and encouraged them to call the hotel owner and manager.
The 837-room Pacific Beach Hotel became part of the HTH chain when late owner Herbert T. Hayashi acquired it in 1970. The property sits at the corner of Kalakaua and Liliuokalani avenues, a strategic Waikiki location, but it didn't become an Oahu landmark until 1978, when Hayashi added a 280,000 gallon, three-story indoor oceanarium -- the largest such structure in the state.
A perfect storm was already brewing when Outrigger came on board. Although Pacific Beach workers voted to join the ILWU in 2004, a National Labor Relations Board investigation delayed recognition of the union until August 2005, and contract negotiations didn't begin until later that year.
Negotiations were still unresolved when HTH brought in Outrigger. To date, workers have yet to see their first union contract.
"It's clear that the employer is trying to get rid of the union," Mori said.
"We're committed to obtaining a contract and honoring the will of our employees," he added.
Pacific Beach management and workers will come to the table again on May 21, said Comstock. Hotel management and workers have been meeting weekly to work on a contract, he said.
Pacific Beach Hotel managers have already agreed to honor everything that had been negotiated with previous managers, he said.
"The employees have waited for a long time, we understand that," he said. "Sure, we'd like to get everyone to know our style of management, but we do want to come to a solution."
Despite two pay increases since the union took over in 2004, workers at Pacific Beach Hotel are still as much as $3 to $4 per hour behind wages at comparable hotels, Mori said. Hotel workers did not receive any wage increases from 1995 to 2004, he said.
"With all the record profits the industry has been making, Pacific Beach Hotel workers deserve their fair share and a union contract that assures a decent standard of living," Mori said. "Waikiki won't be quiet again until these loyal hotel workers start getting what's owed them."