For immediate release
December 17, 2004
(808) 941-2141 x238 or (808 778-7020 (cell)
Honolulu, December 17 – In preparation for potential labor disputes ahead, UNITE HERE Local 5 members overwhelmingly voted to contribute to a strike and defense Fund. The series of special membership meetings on four islands concluded yesterday with 6 meetings throughout the day at Honolulu’s Blaisdell Center. By a 72% margin, union members voted to amend the union’s by-laws to include a special assessment of $10 per month on all members in the hotel and health care industries for the strike and defense fund. The $10 per month contributions will begin in January 2005 and continue through December 2006. The fund is projected to reach $2 million by the end of 2006.
“Workers are under attack, employers everywhere are trying to force workers to pay for increases in medical costs” said Eric Gill, Local 5’s Financial Secretary-Treasurer. “Health care has been at the core of almost every recent labor dispute in the country and employers are getting more aggressive. Supermarket workers in Southern California, hotel workers in San Francisco and health care workers in Northern California have all been locked-out by their employers. The vote yesterday helps us to be prepared to defend our medical benefits and to continue to fight to improve working conditions.”
Labor relations in the hotel industry have become particularly strained. Hotels in San Francisco recently locked-out their union workers. The strike fund created by Local 5’s sister local in San Francisco helped more than 4,000 hotel workers last through the 53-day lock-out. Although the lock-out in San Francisco has ended, a contract has yet to be reached. City-wide hotel negotiations are also ongoing in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C, where workers have voted to approve strikes if necessary.
All of Local 5’s hotel contracts in Waikiki expire in 2006. Other UNITE HERE Locals in other cities throughout North America also have contracts expiring in 2006. By having simultaneous negotiations in multiple cities, the hotel workers’ union seeks to gain greater leverage against the handful of multinational corporations that now dominate the hotel industry.
In addition to the potential need for a strike fund in 2006, Local 5 workers could tap into the fund sooner for the ongoing dispute at the Turtle Bay Resort or for upcoming negotiations for the 500 union members at Consolidated Theatres or the 230 health care workers at the Hale Nani Nursing Home.
Local 5 has more than 11,000 members in Hawaii, including 2,000 Kaiser Permanente workers who settled a five year contract earlier this year.