International Workers’ Day was on May 1, but we believe in celebrating workers year-round. So we are beginning a series of spotlights of our UNITE HERE Local 5 organizers.
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.
Most of our Local 5 organizers are rank-and-file members—people who worked in our hotels, airports, or healthcare facilities who have taken a leave of absence to work for the Union. They are Local 5 members who were also trained by organizers to be leaders. They were housekeepers, cooks, medical assistants, and more who brought their coworkers together to stand up for their rights and change their lives for the better.
Some of our Local 5 organizers are community leaders who joined our team because they believe in the power of our union and our potential to change not just our members’ lives but the future of Hawai’i.
We asked Local 5 organizers Geraldine Acoba and Ikaika Hussey to talk story about how they got involved with Local 5 and why they decided to become organizers. Geraldine Acoba is a housekeeper at the Sheraton Waikiki who took a leave of absence 10 months ago to become an organizer. Ikaika Hussey is a community leader who joined the Local 5 team right before the historic Marriott/Kyo-ya strike in 2018.
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. Full transcript is below:
IKAIKA: My name is Ikaika Hussey. I got involved in Local 5 because I was doing a lot of community organizing in the Native Hawaiian community. And a lot of times we were working on issues, like land issues, demilitarization issues, sovereignty—And a lot of times, Local 5 was the only union that would come out to support.
How did you get involved in Local 5 and why are you an organizer?
GERALDINE: I get involved in Local 5 because actually, before I start Sheraton Waikiki, I know I’m trying to look for a job that get union. So I’m hearing people saying about Local 5 is good place to work. And my father-in-law too is a leader of ILWU before, in Molokai. So I hear that every time you get job, find a job that get union. And husband, too, he was part of the Teamsters, so he get union. I work in Sheraton Waikiki and I really love it because we get good medical that I never had before from Philippines, so we never had that kind—good medical.
I want to join and be an organizer because I want to protect our benefits. Because we don’t want to lose it. And now it’s really getting more harder to fight the corporations. Because now that the Marriott went manage the Sheraton, the Kyo-ya, it’s really, really—you can see the difference how they run before and now. They’re trying to take out all the benefits, the medical. One thing too is I get experience from my husband that he lost his, they lost their union. We get a good union. Local 5 is really a good union. I don’t want to lose it. That’s why even though it’s more hard to do an organizer, I wanted to be part of the organizer team.
IKAIKA: Part of the question is: why are you an organizer? And part of it for me is in the community, I’ve been doing a lot of community organizing. But I wanted to learn how to do good organizing. I wanted to get better at being an organizer. And so I wanted to understand how Local 5 does organizing. One of the key things that I’ve learned is that, like at my work at Ala Moana Hotel, is it’s about finding just a handful of really good leaders and then helping them to grow and to become their own–so that they can organize their own groups. It’s a very different approach and it’s something I would like for folks in the community to understand.
GERALDINE: It’s true what you said, t the one we’re doing–the committee. The committee that get group leaders and they’re trying to teach others to be a leader. Because the union before that I know, somebody just President, Vice President. You just follow what they—and you can just go to them and they fight for you. But now what we’re doing, teaching your coworker to do for themselves, too. It’s good. It’s good that they can learn.