You can’t tiptoe towards justice. You can’t walk up to the door all polite and knock once or twice, hoping someone’s home. Justice is a door, that, when closed, must be kicked in. Daniel José Older in Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time.
Against a backdrop of pedestrians passing and traffic flowing on Kalākaua Avenue, the chants of striking Local 5 workers was steady.
Some beat drums, others waved tambourines, and all insisted over and over again, in unison, that One Job Should Be Enough.
As guests arrived at the hotel, the chants turned into an entreaty: “Don’t check in. Check out!”
“I have a monthly mortgage payment of $2,200,” said one worker. “With the help of my girlfriend, we struggle to pay the bills. This is Hawaiʻi. A gallon of milk costs $7 and a loaf of bread is over $6. I am constantly looking for additional work to survive.”
Another expressed the fear that as hotels adopt more technology and introduce robots, they will be laid off.
“I think it’s great that they are doing this,” said Avery. Both work for a company that sells security systems. They both try to make as much as they possibly can, going door-to-door in the summer in California. They are paid entirely through commissions on sales. They chose to stay at a B & B, and so were not directly affected by the strike.
Faith Action clergy bless the workers
Several members of the clergy from churches on Oahu joined the workers to pray with them, invoking God’s compassion and the prophet Isaiah’s call to not tire and lose hope, but persevere.
”Know that we are cheering you on,” said one. “We’re with you for justice, as long as it takes.” They urged the workers to not lose heart, calling on “God, the source of all fairness and compassion, to give them strength.”
Remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, said another: “You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs.”
Rev. T.J. Fitzgerald of the Unitarian church reminded the workers that “since its inception, the Unitarian church has stood with workers, with those who were treated unfairly, in ways that are unkind.”
The clergy group and other Faith Action members then went into the hotel, met with a couple of managers and expressed their hopes for a speedy, compassionate and just resolution to the workers’ demands.
According to Aikea, “Hawaii’s #1 industry is tourism, and the industry is experiencing record high visitor arrivals and spending, hotel sales, and room rates. The hotel industry profits from jobs that aren’t enough. They cut our hours. They cut our service. They make our lives even harder. This year, 10,000 Hawai‘i workers have union contracts expiring, and most of them work in the tourism industry. They will be fighting for job security, affordable housing, and better working conditions.”