Hawaii airports laying off 662 workers on tourism reopening day

Over 660 Hawaii airport workers will be permanently laid off on October 15, the same day that the state is reopening tourism. They work for HMSHost, an airport subcontractor that manages concessions, restaurants, Starbucks, bars, pantry, maintenance, etc. at Honolulu International Airport, Kahului Airport, and Lihue Airport.

The State of Hawaii is allowing this subcontractor
to permanently lay off nearly 85% of its workforce in Hawaii. There are
approximately 780 HMSHost employees who work at these three airports. UNITE
HERE Local 5 represents these workers and approximates that the company will be
permanently laying off 470 out of 550 workers in Honolulu, 140 out of 170
workers in Kahului, and 52 out of 60 workers in Lihue.

According to the latest WARN notices issued by HMSHost on August 12, the company was planning on permanently laying off 505 workers in Honolulu, 161 workers in Kahului, and 57 workers in Lihue.

UNITE HERE Local 5 condemns the layoffs and calls
out the State and hospitality industry leaders for claiming they want to reopen
tourism to bring jobs back, yet allowing for mass permanent layoffs at the
state airports to happen.

In August, UNITE HERE released a nationwide report on the handouts that HMSHost received since the onset of COVID-19. HMSHost was on track to receive $475 million in aid in the form of rent relief and other handouts. Despite the massive aid that local governments have provided to HMSHost, the company is still moving forward with mass permanent layoffs.

“In the 22 years that I have worked for HMSHost, I
have never felt so disregarded as a human being. After putting almost all of my
adult life into this company, they are laying us off even though it doesn’t
cost them anything to keep us on and call us back in as business increases,”
says Jeanine Ng, a server at The Local in Honolulu Airport.

“In the middle of a pandemic when we need health
insurance most, HMSHost cut off our medical coverage in June. I’ve had to pay
out of pocket for my medication that I need to live. And now as tourism is
supposed to be reopening, they are permanently laying us off and throwing us
into more uncertainty for no good reason,” says Laurie Ann Javierto, who has
worked as a cashier at the Old Plantation in Kahului Airport for 33 years.

Local 5 will continue to take action to help
furloughed workers and push the state and industry leaders to get it right the
first time and reopen tourism so that workers get back to work safely. 

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