Hawaii hotel union protest calls for worker protections

HONOLULU — The union representing workers at many of Hawaii’s hotels have held a demonstration demanding that public safety and the needs of Hawaii’s workers are placed at the forefront of plans to reopen the state’s tourism industry.

Unite Here Local 5 union members took part in a caravan of about 100 carloads of people in Waikiki Wednesday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

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About 9,500 of the 12,000 hospitality, health care and food service workers represented by Local 5 have become unemployed since the state’s tourism industry collapsed following restrictions placed on travel and business to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The protesting hotel workers said they do not want the state to fail to protect the public from a second potential wave of coronavirus cases in a rush to restart tourism.

Tourism statewide plummeted following the March 26 start of a mandatory, 14-day self-quarantine for incoming passengers to Hawaii, which was extended to interisland travelers April 1.

Before the quarantine, about 30,000 travelers arrived to Hawaii daily. Only 235 visitors came to Hawaii from outside the state Tuesday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.

The Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association recently released health and safety protocols to help provide a path for reopening tourism.

But Eric Gill, Local 5’s financial secretary-treasurer, said the plan is inadequate.

“Testing of frontline workers and visitors needs to be part of any plan to reopen Hawaii tourism,” Gill said.

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Hawaii’s hotel industry has not committed to any of the proposals in a “Safe Hotels, Safe Hawaii” report the union released last month, Gill said.

Hawaii’s hotel industry employees cannot return to work without a commitment from employers or the state Legislature to provide health benefits for those who do not have enough hours to qualify or are furloughed, Gill said.

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