Marriott has agreed to contribute to a housing fund to help hotel workers deal with the high cost of housing in Hawaii, according to representatives from Unite Here Local 5 who are in the midst of collective bargaining.

The agreement would be an early win for the union, which kicked off negotiations for a new contract in late June. It represents 11,000 workers in Hawaii and is seeking pay raises, pension increases and numerous other concessions regarding job security and workloads.

Dara Young, director of public relations at Marriott, declined to confirm or deny the union’s statement.

Marriott Waikiki Beach Hotel. 2552 Kalakaua Avenue.
Hotel workers at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Hotel are pushing for big raises during contract negotiations. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Eric Gill, secretary-treasurer at Local 5, said that he’s grateful for Marriott’s willingness to set up a hotel fund and he hopes it will set a precedent for other hotels.

Gill said that the union is proceeding to set up a housing trust fund even though it’s still unclear how much money Marriott will contribute. The fund will be administered by a board of trustees appointed by both the union and hotel management.

“Right now we are in the preparation stages to kind of design the fund,” Gill said.

The fund will have limitations on how the money can be used, he said, adding, “We’re not doing this so that some member can make some money flipping houses.”

Gill said that Marriott has also expressed a willingness to install panic buttons in hotel rooms, something that workers in other cities have requested in response to sexual harassment concerns.

They’ve “already indicated that it’s their intent to roll out that particular resource for workers,” Gill said. “We’ll see what they mean in practice when we get the details.”

Gill said the union is seeking substantial raises in light of Hawaii’s rising cost of living, record visitor spending and recent federal tax changes that benefited corporate America.

“The companies are doing very well and we think they should share,” he said.

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