On October 8, 2,700 Marriott employees in Hawaii walked off the job. They joined other Marriott employees across the country demanding more pay and job security. And while the impacted hotels continue to be open, things aren’t business as usual.
As you’ll recall from my last post, Kyo-ya, owner of the affected Hawaii properties and one in San Francisco states they’re making adjustments as necessary. But what they aren’t saying is how bad those adjustments are impacting guests. And, according to Gary Leff at View from the Wing, Marriott isn’t allowing impacted guests to cancel pre-paid reservations. Nor are the allowing guests to cancel for free if they’re already within the cancellation window. Really, though, as much as Marriott doesn’t want to lose guests, they should allow for cancellations. Impacts of the strike are truly unacceptable, especially since guests are still paying full price.
So what exactly impacts are guests feeling as a result of the strike? According to various media outlets, the effects of the strike vary by property. Over at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, many amenities such as the pools and restaurants are closed. However, at all properties there appears to be little to no housekeeping services. Rooms aren’t being cleaned, though guests are able to grab their own towels, toiletries, sheets, etc. from bins in the lobby. That’s if you can even check into your room. There are numerous reports guests are often spending hours in line at the front desk, while rooms for those that do check-in remain unavailable beyond the traditional check-in time.
But even if you aren’t a guest in the affected hotels, you’ll surely feel some impacts too. Unite Here Local 5 and its members are taking a very aggressive approach to this strike, picketing both on the streets and the beach. Reports say strikers have forced beachgoes from the beach and disrupt hotel guests with loud chanting and the banging of pots and pans from 5:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Despite the ongoing interruptions, there appers to be no resolution in sight. On the one hand, workers are demanding better job protection and pay, while the property owners and Marriott want to minimize impacts to their bottom line, while maintaining flexibility and the ability to enforce service standards.
So how much more do the employees want? I’m not entirely sure, but in the first year of their new contract, employees are demanding a $3/hour increase. Currently, the average housekeeper wage is $22/hour (about $45,000/year) before gratuities. Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts wants to provide a $0.70/hour increase the first year.
Personally, I’m torn regarding the current situation. On the one hand, life in Hawaii is hard, as we have one of the highest costs of living in the nation. But, on the other hand, companies can only pay so much. The reality of capitalism is that businesses are required by law maximize shareholder value. And, guess what? Most other employees in tourism-related service industries such as airlines, car rental companies, restaurants, don’t make nearly as much as hotel industry employees do. In fact, it’s common for many of us in Hawaii that hold advance degrees and important jobs to not make enough to afford to live here. Is that ok? No, but it’s not a problem unique to hotel workers. And they need to realize, the bigger negative impact they have on the industry, they won’t be affecting only themselves, but everyone else too.
Of course, the irony in all of thise is that while hotel workers are striking for these benefits and protections, they could be harming themselves. Despite efforts to prevent cancellations, hotels are experience cancellations. And bookings for the rest of the year and into 2019 are softening, especially in the meeting and conventions category. In fact, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, specials are already appearing in an attempt to compensate for the drop-off in business.
And, the longer the strike continues, and the more properties that become affected, the deeper the impacts. Should the strike continue for too long, workers may return to less opportunities. Especially since the union is threatening further action. According to Unite Here officials, there are 20 properties across Hawaii that have contracts that are up for renewal. And, as a result, workers at hotels like the massive Waikiki Beach Marriott and the Sheraton Kauai could go on strike at any time.
Now let’s say the strike ends and by some miracle the employees demends are met. Can you imagine the impact they’ll have on hotel pricing? Hotels in Hawaii are already among the most expensive in the nation. And if those price begin to rapidly increase because of the strikes, occupancy will certainly fall in the longterm. Then what? There will be less work to go around and some of those striking now could very well end up losing their jobs anyway, or costing someone with less seniority their job.
Hawaii Marriott Strike Update and Impacts, Final Thoughts
I don’t know about you guys, but if I were planning a dream vacation to Hawaii, I’d be very concerned. I would not want to deal with issues guests at these properties are currently dealing with. Nor would I want to deal with the noise and disruptions everyone is having to deal with around the affected properties. So, I’d be formulating a contingency plan, which I am. You see, I’m two weeks, I’ll be in Northern California, with a few nights in San Francisco at a Marriott. And while my current reservation isn’t affected, I’m looking into booking a backup room at a non-Marriott brand just in case. Perhaps at somewhere like the Hyatt Centric San Francisco.
And, ultimately, if you do feel impacts of the strike, I’d seek compensation. Be it a partial refund, bonus points, etc. anyone impacted by the strike should complain. After all, when staying in a hotel, there’s expectation for housekeeping, etc. You’re paying for those services and you’re not receiving them.