UNITEHERE! Local 5
Press Release for January 27, 2022
Bryant de Venecia
UNITE HERE Local 5 Members Hold National Day of Action Shining Light on “Shadow Bosses” Driving Cuts to Services in the Hospitality Industry
With Events in 22 Cities including Honolulu and Kona, UNITE HERE Calls to Close Hotel Owners’ Tax Loophole, End Job Cuts
(Honolulu) – Hotel workers across the U.S. organized a National Day of Action on Thursday to shine a light on the “shadow boss” hotel owners they say are driving cuts to jobs and services in the hospitality industry. UNITE HERE Local 5, Hawaii’s hospitality and healthcare workers’ union joined 20 cities nationwide calling on major hotel owners called REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) to stop pushing for job cuts. Workers are also asking leaders in DC to close the tax loophole that enables REITs to avoid paying taxes on billions paid to investors.
In November of 2021, Park Hotels – the Hilton hotels REIT – listed operating priorities for a “permanent reduction of full-time, hotel-level staffing” including “contactless check-in/room service,” “limit housekeeping,” and “eliminate or re-purpose unprofitable F&B operations.” “We do think that given the crisis, and you don’t want to let any crisis go to waste, we have been working hard and working with our operating partners and also talking with the union about opportunities to rightsize that [operating] model,” said Thomas Baltimore, the CEO of Park Hotels, in a 4th quarter 2020 earnings call. That same year, as hotel workers faced unemployment and cuts to their jobs, Park tripled Baltimore’s pay.
“Even with high occupancy, there’s no automatic daily room cleaning and we are understaffed,” said Ruby Rubina, a housekeeper at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, HI. “There are nights when we could not clean all the dirty vacant rooms, we had no choice but to leave some for the workers to clean the next morning. The overworked housekeepers are unable keep up. These changes hurt all of us. Park Hotels & Resorts owns over 70% of the guest rooms at Hilton Hawaiian Village—it’s one of their highest-earning properties. Yet, they are letting workers suffer while hundreds are still waiting to have their jobs back.”
A key issue is the elimination of daily housekeeping and sanitation as an industry standard, which UNITE HERE estimates would cut up to 180,000 U.S. housekeeping jobs primarily held by women of color. In a recent arbitration hearing between UNITE HERE Local 5 and Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the Arbitrator determined that the hotel’s policy to eliminate automatic daily room cleaning for the majority of its guests violates the Union’s collective bargaining agreement with the hotel. The decision orders Hyatt Regency Waikiki to cease and desist and to reinstate automatic daily guest room cleaning. Local 5 hopes that this victory against Hyatt Regency Waikiki sets a precedent with the rest of the Union’s hotel employers to follow—particulary the Hilton, Marriott, and Kyo-ya—to bring back automatic daily room cleaning and all the affected workers laid off during the pandemic.
The National Day of Action is the Union’s first major event of the new year. The collective bargaining agreements between UNITE HERE Local 5 and its major hotel employers—Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and Kyo-ya—will expire in the summer of 2022. Union members continue the fight to keep the good jobs in Hawaii’s largest industry.
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Local 5 represents approximately 12,000 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.