Kyo-ya hotel workers ratify new contract in near-unanimous vote


After more than seven weeks, a strike involving workers from five Hawaii hotels has ended.

In a 99.6-percent vote, members of the UNITE HERE Local 5 union approved a new contract with owner Kyo-ya.

“This day is a huge victory for all of us. We all got something huge in this contract that we’ve been needing, not wanting. That’s the huge thing,” said worker Jowenna Ellazar. “It’s not what we wanted. We didn’t want to go on strike. We didn’t want to give up paychecks, but this is something that we needed to do for our families, our kids, for our futures.”

More than 2,700 workers had been on strike since Oct. 8, pushing for wage increases and benefits that they said would allow them to work only one job.

The strike affected five hotels owned by Kyo-ya and operated by Marriott: Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, and Sheraton Maui.

“We have come a long way, learned a lot, found confidence and faith in each other, backed each other up,” said union secretary-treasurer Eric Gill. “It’s been hard and difficult, but people’s spirits are excellent and we came out of this much stronger than when we went in.”

Local 5 says hotel workers will return to work starting Thursday at 3 a.m. 

Workers tell us they got most of what they asked for.

“Overwhelmed. I almost cried,” said worker Leo Casiano.

“I cannot believe 51 days passed. After all my callouses in my hands and oh, that banging sound, I’m happy to be back,” said worker Gina Aczon.

“We know what the first-year pay increase is,” Gill said. “What we have is a contract that allows the union to basically negotiate a lump of cash and we are able to allocate that to our benefits and wages and so on. That way we have the ability to respond to spikes in medical and so on.”

2018July 1
Allocations to be determined in subsequent years

*This includes housekeeping room drop (equals $0.66)
**$1.14 on July 1, 2021 and $0.30 on Jan. 1, 2022

Other details of the contract include the installation of panic buttons for employees who work alone in guest rooms, which will be done by next year, as well as accommodations for pregnant and nursing workers. Effective July 1, 2020, housekeepers’ quotas will be reduced from 15 rooms to 14 rooms per day.

Workers says it’s been a tough several weeks, but it was worth it.

“Yes, it was, but it paid off, because we stuck together. That’s what I believe,” said worker Lolita Rodriguez.

“We have a good contract. We have great belief, and we have great faith in our director and treasurer,” said worker George Akeo.

“We’re grateful for the solidarity of our fellow union members and the support of the entire community,” said union president Gemma Weinstein.

“The new agreement meets the needs of our employees and Kyo-ya,” said the management of Kyo-ya. “We look forward to welcoming them back and look forward to more years of working together to successfully provide world-class service to our guests. We also want to thank the community for their patience and understanding throughout this process.”

Voting took place at Ala Moana Hotel throughout the day with polls closing at 7:30 p.m.

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