51-day strike that includes Sheraton Maui Resort ends

Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa workers celebrate Tuesday afternoon in Kaanapali after word of a new deal looked to end their 51-day strike. About 325 workers, represented by UNITE HERE Local 5, picketed in front of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa for more than 50 days. They sought higher wages and better job security. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Striking workers at five Hawaii hotels, including the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali, approved a new four-year contract Tuesday, a union official confirmed Tuesday night.

The ratification came with 99.6 percent voting yes, said Paola Rodelas of UNITE HERE Local 5.

A tentative agreement was reached Tuesday afternoon between UNITE HERE Local 5 and Kyo-ya, which owns the hotels operated by Marriott. The terms were not released by the union or management, but the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported a $6.13 an hour pay and benefit increases over the four years of the contract.

There was celebration in the union ranks.

“We did it,” said Maui Local 5 member Rogelio Sanchez Jr. “Oh, my God. Fifty-one days and we did it. It’s been an emotional ride, but we stood strong and fought for what we believed in, as far as a fair contract. We’re so elated, words can’t describe how we feel.”

Elated Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa workers receive the news of a tentative agreement Tuesday. They have been on strike since Oct. 8.

At the Sheraton Maui, union committee leader and shop steward Evie Chargualaf said Tuesday afternoon after learning about the tentative agreement that the striking employees all were ready to return to work.

“We are all looking forward to it,” she said. “Thanks and relief. We’ve been there 51 days. From day one, we chanted ‘one day longer, one day stronger,’ and we lived up to that today, 51 days later.”

She said she has worked at the Sheraton Maui for 38 years.

“Our jobs, that’s our passion, that’s our careers,” she said.

More than 325 workers at Sheraton Maui were among 2,700 union workers who have been on strike since Oct. 8. The workers had sought higher wages and expressed concerns about job security because of automation and subcontracting.

“We’re grateful for the solidarity of our fellow union members and the support of the entire community,” said Gemma Weinstein, UNITE HERE Local 5 president.

According to a statement from Kyo-ya management, the agreement meets the needs of employees and the company.

“We look forward to welcoming them back and look forward to more years of working together to successfully provide world-class service to our guests,” the statement said.

The Sheraton Maui remained open and accommodated two teams and fans for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational collegiate basketball tournament last week, but some services and restaurant options were curtailed.

Workers also were on strike at Sheraton Waikiki, The Royal Hawaiian, Westin Moana Surfrider and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.

* Lee Imada contributed to this report. Matthew Thayer can be reached at citydesk@mauinews.com. Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto.com.