It was early in the afternoon of December 29, 2012 at the Pacific Beach Hotel – site of countless rallies and demonstrations led by Local 142. But on this day, instead of chants and slogans there were cheers, hugs, and high-fives. After more than 10 years of struggle, tentative agreement was reached on a first union contract for Pacific Beach workers.
For more than a decade, showing up for work at the Pacific Beach Hotel meant facing eight hours of intimidation and disrespect. The intimidation peaked in 2007 when 31 union supporters were fired – including 7 of the 10 union negotiating committee members. The fight intensified.
A local boycott of the hotel was called by Hawaii unions, community groups, and elected officials. At the request of Local 142, President McEllrath convinced the AFL-CIO to place the Pacific Beach Hotel on its national boycott list.
Union federations in the Philippines, Canada, and Japan also came forward to support the Pacific Beach workers and the boycott went international. The solidarity of unions in Japan – led by Zenkowan, the All-Japan Dockworkers Union – was especially critical because most of the hotel’s guests were Japanese.
“This fight could not have been won without the strength and determination of the Pac Beach workers. These workers faced firings, harassment, and intimidation for over 10 years – but they still stuck with the ILWU.” stated International Vice President-Hawaii Wesley Furtado.
Furtado continued: “But the workers weren’t alone. Global solidarity was also key to their victory.”
Pacific Beach Hotel workers in non-tipped jobs won a 5% raise in the first year and a total increase of 13% over four years. Tipping category workers improved and secured their tips, and all workers will see major improvements in their benefits and job security. Contract ratification was nearly unanimous, with only one “no” vote.
But Pacific Beach workers did more than just improve their standard of living. They also built the foundation of a strong unit to take on the struggles that lie ahead.
Virginia Recaido, a 20-year housekeeper and negotiating committee member, was fired in 2007. She found another better-paying job, but went back to the hotel after a judge ordered the company to reinstate her. Why? “I had to show the company that they didn’t win. I don’t want people who come after me to suffer like I did.”
Kapena Kanaiaupuni, a bellman with nearly 30 years seniority, is also a member of the negotiating committee who was fired and reinstated. After ratification, he was approached by immigrant Korean and Chinese workers excited about their first union contract. Differences in languages and cultures had kept them apart, but the workers’ victory changed that. Kanaiaupuni told them: “Never mind about nationality – we’re all one now!”