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.
Avery and Sam Spencer from Utah, in Hawaiʻi on their honeymoon, paused as they walked by to understand what the strike was about.
“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.”
So nice to see the clergy taking a stance! These workers deserve a fairer wage!
Great post; thank you. Justice! Fairness!
All of us agree with the concern of our brothers and sisters and we feel their pain.Yes they should not be forced to have 2 and even 3 jobs that one should be enough. We all agree. But the HIGHEST COST OF LIVING IN HAWAII is the reason we have this problems. We must not only blame the employers who are really giving these protesters their Job but overall it is the ONE PARTY SYSTEM IN HAWAII that have not solved this miserable Highest Cost Of Living in Hawaii, that is the honest reason that one job is not enough. The do nothing politicians should be the one we should be protesting and demand they do their job to help our good workers so they will not have 2 or 3 jobs just to survive. Yes I like to see the day that ONE JOB IS ENOUGH.
I stayed at the Moana Surfrider last week, Marriott’s Westin property in Waikiki where local 5 members were striking. As a former intern for this property and the other three Waikiki based Kyo-Ya operated Marriott Hotels I was troubled by the sight of the hard working folks picketing outside the hotel. I’ve seen up close the long hours and hard work put forth by the staff at these properties – things that we’re told growing up will be enough to get by and live a comfortable life. Unfortunately, it seems that in Hawai’i and throughout the country a working middle class has become more myth than reality. We continue to witness the rich getting richer as the working classes find it harder and harder to get by on 40, 50 and 60+ hour work weeks.
In the case of Marriott, the stark contrast between the company’s exceptional financial growth and the stagnant wages paid to their employees is especially startling. Through their acquisition of Starwood Hotels, Marriott International is now the world’s largest hotel chain. Their most recent quarterly earnings saw revenues rise 43.7% to $5.66 billion and the company has now raised it’s full-year profit forecast three times this year. One would think that Marriott would recognize these profits would not be possible without the support of the staff operating their properties but perhaps corporate greed trumps paying employees their fair share these days.
On my last day of vacation, I took some time to chat with many local five workers in front of the hotel. Despite being out of work for weeks, standing in the picket line for hours at a time and lacking any certainty on what lies ahead – they were in good spirits and cautiously optimistic about returning to work soon. Their main demand seemed so reasonable it was frustrating – increase wages enough to match their cost of living so they can get by on a single full-time occupation not two or three. Perhaps the most refreshing part of my conversations was their compassion for the tourists and other workers who they were indirectly impacting during the strike – selfless reflections from a group fighting for their livelihood. One can only hope the fight ends soon and mega-corporations like Marriott learn to share the wealth with those that help them create it.