On the Picket Line

Hawaii hospital workers strike wins growing support

By Neil Tupas
April 10, 2023

Contract negotiations between the United Public Workers union and three hospitals in the Kaiser health system on the Hawaiian island of Maui took place March 17. The nurses’ aides, therapists, technicians, groundskeepers, housekeepers, cooks, laundry workers and other union members went out on strike Feb. 22 at the Maui Memorial Medical Center, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital after rejecting bosses’ proposed contract.

A lot of the workers have worked at the hospitals for more than 10 years. When Kaiser Permanente took them over three years ago, bosses cut back on workers’ sick days and personal time off, and cut staffing. The UPW members key demands are for wage increases, hiring more workers to overcome short staffing and an end to mandatory 16-hour days.

“They added involuntary overtime. We don’t like that, that’s why we rejected it. We don’t want this on our contract,” Margarita Javalde, a housekeeper at Maui Memorial Medical Center, told the Militant. “They should just go ahead and say ‘mandatory.’ They shouldn’t use the word ‘involuntary.’ They are telling us that we are illiterate.”

“We started this. We want to finish it because we know what we are doing,” said Elen Quema, a housekeeper at Maui Memorial Medical Center.

Support continues to pour in from the community; UNITE HERE Local 5; United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, the nurses’ union; International Longshore and Warehouse Union; and Hawaii Ironworkers Local 625.

“The community sees now that there is a real problem here,” Quema said.

“Energy on the picket line is great. Members continue to receive daily donations of food and drinks from people in the community,” said UPW Communications Manager Maleko McDonnell. “Many members have said they are ready for a long fight, although no one wants it.”

Message of solidarity can be sent to United Public Workers Local 646, 841 Kolu Street, Wailuku, Maui, HI 96793; phone (808) 244-0815.