Saturday, May 5, 2001

Hotel workers
should strive for
fair contract—and
do it quickly

The issue: Hotel employees are
threatening to go on strike if no labor
agreement is reached by Monday
with six large Waikiki hotels.

DELEGATES to the annual conference of the Asian Development Bank may have a bumpy first day on Monday, not because of anti-globalization protesters but due to a work stoppage by Waikiki hotel employees. Even if no tentative agreement is reached by then, hotel workers would cause harm to their own long-term welfare by immediately going on strike. The hotels would be wise to eliminate that possibility and enhance their tourism prospects by striving for a fair agreement. The incentives on both sides could not be stronger.

About 5,000 members of Local 5 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union have been working at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Hyatt Regency Waikiki and four Sheraton hotels under an extension of a labor agreement that expired more than a year ago. The workers make hourly wages ranging from $11.82 to $20.35 and are seeking yearly increases of 5 percent in a three-year contract.

While the union proposal does not seem excessive, especially when considering the record tourism figures for the past year, hotel owners are pessimistic about the coming year. Even so, a modest raise and pension improvements sought by the union seem in order, as does assurance that workers currently covered under the contact will not be replaced by non-union subcontractors. Agreement on those primary issues appears to be attainable.

Hotel employees have been asked by the union not to report for work on Monday and to instead attend a union meeting that morning, either to ratify a tentative agreement, if one has been reached by then, or to decide upon further action, such as a strike.

The union members could cause substantial harm to the hotels by striking during the Asian Development Bank conference, which is scheduled to run through Friday. A strike also could fulfill the hotel owners' prophesy of a downturn in tourism. Disruption of the bank meeting, whether caused by political protesters or by a hotel strike, would lessen Hawaii's appeal for being host for meetings of other major financial institutions in the future.

A federal mediator should assist union and management in arriving at an agreement. If none can be reached before more than 3,000 delegates begin arriving for the bank conference, the union members should consider it in their own interest to delay drastic action until the conference has adjourned.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4762;

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