For Immediate Release: March 17, 2020
Bryant de Venecia
Cell Phone: (808) 546-0024
UNITE HERE Local 5 dealing with mass layoffs and a health care crisis due to COVID-19
Union demands that employers ensure continued health coverage and that government resources be used to support working families
HONOLULU—UNITE HERE Local 5 continues to fight for the health and safety of Hawaii’s working families and our communities. The Union has begun negotiations with employers for measures aiming to protect healthcare benefits and job security for workers, as well as expanding precautionary protocols that will ensure safety in hotel and healthcare properties to combat the spread of the virus.
In a letter sent to hotel and food service employers, Local 5’s top officers stated, “Many workers are currently without work as global travel has been increasingly curtailed due to public health concerns, and more layoffs are expected. As an industry, we have an urgent need to deal with both the public health crisis and the resulting unemployment crisis facing our members.”
Thousands of UNITE HERE Local 5 members at the hotels, food service, airports, and healthcare facilities are in the frontline of the pandemic. The Union is pushing employers to maintain medical coverage and allow employees to access accrued sick leave, including workers who are laid-off. The Union is also urging the hotels to double-down on the sanitation within the properties to ensure guest and worker health, and to build visitor confidence when travel resumes.
Employer actions are necessary but will not be enough. Local 5 is calling upon our employers to support our demands that the state and federal governments step up to take care of displaced workers. Federal disaster funds need to be tapped to ensure that unemployed workers maintain health care coverage through the health crisis. Government needs to ensure that banks and financial institutions suspend foreclosure actions and collection actions against unemployed workers, and that landlords curtail evictions. The state needs to eliminate the waiting period for unemployment insurance and extend benefits as needed to keep our families afloat.
“We are disappointed that the federal government has so far shown little interest in ensuring the health and security of working families,” said Secretary-treasurer Eric Gill. “Congress gave billionaires a windfall tax break in 2017, and they put it all in their own pockets. It’s now for the rich to give back to society, it’s time to use federal money and power to help working people in need.”
“Our members are helping each other through this,” said President Gemma Weinstein, “As we always have. We have strong health and retirement funds, and with our employers’ support, our Funds will play a large role in keeping our community going. With resources from our government and hard work from everyone, our community will survive and return to prosperity.”
Local 5 represents approximately 11,500 workers throughout Hawaii who work in the hospitality, health care and food service industries and is an affiliate of UNITE HERE, an international union that represents over 300,000 workers throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.unitehere5.org.