Hotel workers demand safe return to work in car caravan

Coronavirus

More than 100 cars with hotel workers and supporters behind the wheel joined a caravan demonstration down Waikiki to voice safety demands and be a part of the state’s plans to reopen tourism.

It is a demonstration under times of social distancing, union members of Unite Here Local 5, did not gather in large groups like in the past, they stayed inside their moving cars advocating for a safe return to work.

Jason Maxwell is a bartender at two hotels in Waikiki that remain closed, he wants to make sure he is able to return to work and remain in good health.

Maxwell said, “We are literally the ones in the front lines so the people making decisions whoever they might be are not the ones that are out actually like me as a bartender, they are not going to have people in front of them.”

He said he has been passing by with vacation hours he was able to accrue. Front desk clerks, housekeepers, servers and bartenders were all part of the car caravan, many of these jobs were practically gone when COVID-19 forced the majority of hotels to shutter.

Maxwell said, “I am grateful that we got a strong union and we have the ability to advocate for ourselves, that’s key, but we are just pushing that we are brought to the table so that we can advocate for ourselves.”

Hawaii’s Lt. Gov. Josh Green said he has communicated with union leaders and he wants them to be included in reopening talks.

Green said, “They are the experts in their jobs and so their input is super valuable and they will know the risks they have to be concerned about more than anyone.”

The union urges the hotel industry to adopt guidelines released in its report, “Safe Hotels, Safe Hawaii“, it prioritizes COVID-19 testing for workers.

“I want to stay healthy of course and testing is important,” Maxwell said. “We do have to work, we know we have to, so we can’t stay home forever but we just want to get back in there and make it as safe as possible.”

Green said there is the capability to test 5,000 people per day and he expects availability to grow.

Green said, “We should not be shy about testing, we should fund it and we should make it available.”  

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