For immediate release
March 30, 2005
941-2141 x238 or 778-7020 (cell)
Honolulu, March 30 – In an effort to advance their 3 year struggle for a new contract and counter the hotel’s latest union-busting tactics, Turtle Bay workers gathered 224 signatures on a petition. Workers delivered the petition to the hotel’s management and demanded that the hotel pay for their medical care and return to the bargaining table. The petition was signed by more than 70% of the employees who represent more than 2,415 years of service to the Turtle Bay Resort. The hotel’s under payments for workers’ health care has created a pending crisis and fueled increased anger among employees.
Turtle Bay workers receive their health care coverage through the AFL Hotel and Restaurant Workers Health and Welfare Trust Fund, a joint labor management fund which provides Local 5 retirees, members and their families with health care coverage. While contributions from other hotels have increased and medical costs have risen dramatically, Turtle Bay has been paying the same contribution rate since 1999. Turtle Bay’s under payments have already created a funding shortfall of over $600,000, forcing the Fund’s trustees to take action. On March 18, the Trust Fund wrote a letter to the hotel and the union stating that if the hotel does not begin to pay the current contribution rate in 60 days, Turtle Bay workers will lose their retiree medical coverage.
After a 92% vote by Turtle Bay workers to launch a boycott in July 2003, the hotel’s owners agreed to maintain workers’ health care and pension coverage by matching the rates paid by other union hotels. However, Turtle Bay has refused to pay the higher rates, despite repeated requests by the union. By mid 2004, the parties were close to reaching a settlement on a new contract, but the hotel changed negotiators and adopted an increasingly aggressive approach towards the union.
“Turtle Bay needs to stop playing games, pay for our medical -like they promised- and settle the rest of the contract” said Elaine Hornal, a pantry worker at Turtle Bay. “They are trying to offer us another medical plan because they think that if we leave the Trust Fund then they can get rid of the union too. They need to realize that Local 5 is here to stay. Different owners and managers have come and gone, but we’ve always had the union.”
The union petition urged “the hotel to immediately return to the bargaining table and settle a fair contract so that we can end the boycott and help make Turtle Bay Resort a success.” The hotel has refused to accept any dates for face to face negotiations since the last talks were held in June 2004. Instead, the hotel has backed away from previous agreements and has insisted that the union submit a new proposal that “recognizes the damage done by [the] boycott.” On February 25, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) wrote a letter to Local 5 and Turtle Bay recommending the use of a federal mediator. Turtle Bay has not responded to the idea of mediation.
Meanwhile, an NLRB hearing on 8 separate alleged unfair labor practices has been rescheduled from April 12 to June 7. Sixteen additional unfair labor practice charges have been filed against Turtle Bay Resort and are now under investigation