History & Mission
A Bright Future Built on a Proud Past
From the earliest days of Hawaii’s tourist industry, our union has led Hawaii hotel workers to fight for good, secure jobs with a future, in an industry where most workers around the world work below the poverty line. As tourism has grown in size and importance in Hawaii’s economy, Local 5′s role has been increasingly vital over the years to the economic health of our entire state, setting high standards for wages and benefits that help drive better conditions for all Hawaii workers.
Chartered in 1938 as its fifth local union by the Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, Local 5 has remained one of the International Union’s most important and successful local unions ever since. Now named UNITE HERE, Local 5 continues to be a key player in the International Union’s strategies and campaigns.
Throughout our history, Local 5 has maintained a reputation for aggressive advocacy and powerful servicing on behalf of our members, and hard-hitting negotiations campaigns that deliver what our members need. That reputation for building power on behalf of our members enabled Local 5 to grow from a few hundred members up to the current 11,000 members.
Our union’s reputation was also a vital element in our expansion into Hawaii’s health care industry. Industrial leader Henry J. Kaiser, after a career in manufacturing and construction, came to Hawaii in the late 1950s in a big way, building what is now the Hilton Hawaiian Village and kicking off his Kaiser Permanente network of health care facilities. Recognizing Local 5′s strength, Kaiser decided to work with the union instead of fighting his workers, and both Hawaiian Village and Kaiser Permanente workers were able to join Local 5 without opposition from management. Since then, Local 5′s health care membership has grown to about 2000 members — a large and important part of Local 5′s membership.
Just as in the hotel industry, Local 5 members in Kaiser Permanente set the highest standard for wages and benefits in Hawaii’s health care industry, benefiting not only our members, but also all local health care workers.
Over the years, Local 5 has been known for both its members’ steadfast support for its leaders, as well as the effective democratic action of its members to achieve change, when change was needed. We have benefited from both long-term stability in our union leadership, as well as the members’ supervision and correction of leadership through the exercise of democratic rights.
Whether through their powerful support of tested leaders, or changes in leadership through effective membership action, it is the members of Local 5 who have always been the key to our success as a union. Our members have proved strong and resolute, and built a potent force for progress.
Today, we stand on the shoulders of the giants of our past, who have handed down to our generation of leaders a strong, effective and powerful labor union with a positive reputation in our community. More than ever, tourism is the key link in Hawaii’s economy, and Local 5 the key player to make tourism pay for our people and our community. We have great potential and great opportunities. With your help, we will achieve our mission.