Hilton-Managed Hotel Employees Fear Permanent Layoffs As Recall Rights Expiration Nears

Hilton-Managed Hotel Employees Fear Permanent Layoffs As Recall Rights Expiration Nears

By Aina Iglesias (Front Desk, Doubletree by Hilton Alana Waikiki)

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? We also offer writing training. Contact Paola Rodelas.

Earl Kono, a furloughed employee at Tree’s in the Doubletree Hilton Alana Waikiki, still does not know when the Doubletree’s only in-house restaurant will reopen

“Did you see Hilton is getting rid of workers permanently?” Jungmin Kim, my coworker, came running to ask me before I could even get to the front desk. Confused by her panic, I asked what she meant. Her eyes widened as she took a deep breath. She told me and another worker that the CEO told investors that when the pandemic is over, Hilton will operate with fewer workers. I could feel the heat generating from my feet to my head. My blood was boiling. Angrily, I said, “They cannot do that!” She explained to me that our employer has refused to extend our union contract’s recall rights past two years. Workers who have been permanently laid off may lose their ability to come back to their jobs. With 10 months left to get our jobs back, it dawned on me that we are running out of time.

As COVID-19 started to reach Hawaii in March 2020, over 2,000 workers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and Doubletree by Hilton Alana Hotel received a letter from management about closing the hotels. We hoped the pandemic would pass and we would return to work in a month. It became more terrifying when months passed and there was still no word from the hotel.

Over a year later and despite Hilton-managed hotels finally being open, only a few of us have been recalled back to our jobs. The remaining uncalled workers continue to be scared of when they would return to work—how they would afford rent or mortgage, and what they would be feeding their kids should the situation remain the same.

Meanwhile, workers at other union hotels represented by UNITE HERE Local 5—such as the Ala Moana Hotel, Modern Honolulu, and Waikiki Beach Resort—fought for and already won one more year of recall rights. Jason Maxwell, a bartender at the Modern Honolulu, said he was close to achieving his dream of buying a home for his family pre-pandemic. “This victory of the recall rights extension gave me hope. It would give our union a chance and time to fight. If they do bring jobs back, then the same workers come back,” said Maxwell, with relief that the pandemic was not the end of his dreams.

Earl Kono, a furloughed employee at Tree’s in the Doubletree Hilton Alana Waikiki

At the Hilton Hawaiian Village, management recently reopened the Wiki Wiki Market, Starbucks, and Starlight Luau after months of workers fighting for union restaurants to reopen. Some Food and Beverage workers were finally able to return to work. Unfortunately, there are still workers like Earl Kono, an employee at Tree’s, who was told by his general manager that they have no plans to reopen Doubletree by Hilton’s only in-house restaurant.

Kono said, “Losing my recall rights frightens me. I am a single father taking care of my kids and my grandson. Every night, I’m on the verge of breaking down thinking about our future. I’ve been hearing stories on the news about people going homeless, and I don’t want my family to be next.”

The engineers in the maintenance departments are also anxious. Jesus Ragasa, an engineer from the Doubletree by Hilton Alana Hotel, is working full-time again. Many of his colleagues, however, remain furloughed. He anticipates double the workload if there continues to be only three full-time engineers, instead of eight pre-pandemic engineers. An extension of recall rights would mean the maintenance workers would have extra time to fight for their jobs back, especially when Waikiki Hilton hotels eventually return to full occupancies again. If workers who were laid off in the beginning of the pandemic are not recalled by March 2022, Hilton might end these positions permanently.

There is a false narrative that workers are living comfortably off unemployment and do not want to return to work. In reality, we are struggling and on the edge of our seats, frightened for the future. We desperately want our hotel jobs back. Earl Kono said, “We have to stick together and fight for our jobs. We have to organize and push our managers to do something about this. Extending isn’t going to cost them a penny, so why is it so hard for them to agree with us and give us peace of mind?”

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? We also offer writing training. Contact Paola Rodelas.

Local 5 members help rent relief program applications

Local 5 has been helping from the inside on the massive Rental and Utility Relief Program with the City and County of Honolulu. Three Local 5 members (clockwise: Haley Oki, Sora Bak, and Caitlin Sabado) took a leave of absence to work with us. They have processed over 100 applications in the past month! If you’re applying and want someone who has hotel experience to assist you, you can count on these three to be there. #UnionAdvantage

Daily hotel room cleaning means a happier and healthier Hawaii

By Nely Reinante (Housekeeper, Hilton Hawaiian Village)

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? Contact Paola Rodelas.

Hilton Hawaiian Village housekeepers and workers from other departments are passing out leaflets to guests, encouraging them to join our call to ask for their rooms to be cleaned daily

Tourism drives Hawaii’s economy, while housekeepers are the heart of a hotel. As tourism is returning, we—the housekeepers—are excited to welcome our guests to show off our island’s alluring beauty and share our warmest spirit of Aloha once again. However, only a few housekeepers are being called back to work because many hotels are not providing daily room cleaning. This leaves housekeepers like me who aren’t called back to work enveloped with worries, as we’ve been furloughed for 14 months already. Where are we going to find a decent paying job like our UNITE HERE Local 5 union jobs, should we get permanently laid off?

Jhorina Ancheta, a single mom with three kids, is a furloughed housekeeper at Hilton Hawaiian Village. She says, “If there was daily room cleaning, more housekeepers would be called back to work. If I can have my job back, I will be able to support my family the way it was pre-pandemic. We are only able to survive now because my bill and loan payments are deferred until September.”

Some hotels like Hilton Hawaiian Village are taking advantage of the pandemic to cut down labor costs by not providing daily room cleaning. Guests are spending hundreds of dollars a night in our hotel. Their room is supposed to be the cleanest and safest place to be. We, the housekeepers, are in charge of creating this atmosphere. A new study by HospitalityNet on hotel cleanliness shows that 79% of respondents are most concerned about their room’s cleaning and sanitation, while 91% are more likely to stay at a hotel that helps their employees who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Housekeepers who are currently working are suffering from stress and fatigue because of the dirty rooms. Maria Luz Espejo, a 59-year-old housekeeper who has worked for 18 years at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, said, “It’s harder to clean a filthy room that hasn’t been cleaned every day, compared to a room that is being cleaned every day. Sometimes we can’t finish the rooms in a timely manner, even if we skip our lunch break. I am not getting any younger, so cleaning dirty checkouts makes me suffer with body aches and joint pains.”

Smaller hotels like Queen Kapiolani, Sheraton Maui, and The Kahala Hotel have implemented daily room cleaning. Hilton Hawaiian Village should set the standard for daily cleaning because Hilton was the #1 place to work pre-pandemic and the Hilton Hawaiian Village is the largest Hilton hotel in the world.

Carmelita “Joy” R. Melegrito, a housekeeper at The Kahala Hotel, says, “I’m happy that we have daily room cleaning because it means less worry about our safety. I got two injuries pre-pandemic because I was rushing to clean a dirty room. If it was already hard before the pandemic to clean rooms, how much more now if there’s no daily cleaning?”

The Kahala workers took numerous actions to voice their concerns to management regarding their working conditions. As a result, they got their demands, including daily room cleaning.

Housekeepers are ready to fight for our jobs. We won’t stop until management works with us to resolve this. We will work together, passing leaflets to guests encouraging them to join our call to ask for their rooms to be cleaned daily.

Returning to work would mean my family can keep our apartment. We can’t go back to my sister-in-law’s two-bedroom apartment where we stayed for eight years when I was still working in a non-union company. Every hardworking individual deserves a better place to work and live.

Are you interested in writing for UNITE HERE Local 5? Contact Paola Rodelas.

Sheraton houseman gets reinstated after wrongful termination

Alfredo, a houseman at Sheraton Waikiki for 26 years with clean record was wrongfully terminated. A shop steward filed a grievance with the Union’s help to have him reinstated. We’re so happy he was brought back to work on May 27! #UnionAdvantage

Who are your Local 5 organizers? Meet Gracie Esperanza

UNITE HERE Local 5 organizers are responsible for training workers to be leaders in their workplaces and out in the community. Thanks to the hard work of our organizers, Local 5 members are learning how to organize their coworkers so that together they can fight for fairness and respect at work and win amazing union contracts that give us good wages, benefits, job security, and more.

We asked Local 5 organizer Gracie Esperanza to talk story about her work as a Local 5 organizer and her life in general. Gracie Esperanza has been a ward clerk at Kaiser Permanente for 18 years. She is currently on leave of absence to organize her fellow Kaiser Permanente coworkers.

To learn more about how to get involved with Local 5, contact us and we’ll put you in touch with your organizer.

Watch the video. See the full transcript of the video below:

GRACIE ESPERANZA: I pretty much got involved with Local 5 because I was labeled as a whistleblower. And since then, I wanted to get involved because I wanted to know my rights as a union member and be able to stand up for myself if—and also for others, my coworkers, if things arise in a situation that I was in.

Pretty much just being able to defend myself with our contract and not get—be jerked around by the management.

It feels great to be serving and working with Local 5 members. It’s because a lot of times I’ve come across with members that they do not know their rights. Again, like I see myself in them. Because in the very beginning, I myself was not comfortable speaking up, not knowing what our contract and how our union can help. So to help other Local 5 members who don’t know how to exercise their rights, it feels great!

The person that inspired me the most is Manang Lydia. Knowing—she inspires me each time that I share the same room with her. Because—due to the fact that she’s older and she’s so passionate on her work, being an organizer. And even though English is her second language like myself, she speaks from the heart. But when you speak from the heart, it’s more touching. And people can relate to you even more.

Local 5 should be welcoming, very assistive and supportive. Because at times, when we do need our Union to support and show guidance, we should be welcoming, supportive, and be educated and informative to other Local 5 members.