“One-to-one, worker-to-worker – that’s a big part of how we organize in the ILWU.” explained Wesley Furtado, International Vice President (Hawaii). This approach has worked for our Union over the years, including 2013 when over 500 new members were brought into Local 142 between September and November.
On September 1, 2013, the Andaz Maui at Wailea – a Hyatt brand resort – agreed to card check recognition and a first contract that will give Andaz Maui workers a 14.5% increase over 3.5 years. The Andaz is expected to eventually employ some 400 bargaining unit workers.
“The Andaz was the priority for our organizing in Local 142.” Furtado continued. “It was a brand new hotel built on the grounds of the former Renaissance Wailea Resort – an ILWU unit for many years. We wanted to make sure it continued to be an ILWU house so we could protect the standards we have at the two other Hyatt resorts represented by Local 142.”
Organizers and rank and file leaders from many Maui Division units identified Andaz applicants from around the island and signed these workers on union authorization cards. Thousands of family members, co-workers, and friends were contacted. Social media and many new and creative ideas were used to build on the ILWU approach of one-to-one, worker-to-worker.
In Hawaii Division, rank and file members were key in convincing a non-union department of the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay to organize. On September 6, 2013, Guest Service Agents voted 6 – 2 to join the ILWU in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
On September 10, 2013, the NLRB conducted an election on Oahu for 45 drivers and warehouse workers at Anheuser-Busch Sales of Hawaii. The Anheuser-Busch workers took ownership of this organizing drive; leaders talked to co-workers, signed them up on ILWU cards, set up group meetings – and they won! The vote: 27 – 17.
Another NLRB election, this time for workers at Kaanapali Alii, was held November 20, 2013. Kaanapali Alii is a vacation condominium resort located between two longtime ILWU units, the Westin Maui Resort & Spa and the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa.
Organizers built a solid core of support through one-to-one contact with the workers, and this support grew stronger as ILWU members who are family and friends of Kaanapali Alii employees urged them to “go union”. On election day, leaders and members from the Westin and Hyatt turned out to hold signs encouraging a “yes” vote. The 75 Kaanapali Alii workers responded, voting 49 – 22 for the ILWU.
“Westin is a well-established unit in the ILWU and Kaanapali Alii is right next to our hotel. Our members came out when Alii workers voted – we wanted to show them that they weren’t alone. We live in the same communities and shop in the same stores. We want them to enjoy the benefits of an ILWU contract just like we do,” said Mike Bunyard, unit chair at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa.
In spite of these victories, organizing is tough. Most workers seeking to join a union in this country face an uphill battle made even more difficult by weak labor laws. But one-to-one, worker-to-worker contact – especially by members who can talk firsthand about the ILWU – goes a long ways towards countering the fear and intimidation that many workers face when trying to form a union.